Safari park concealed leopards' escape for 2 weeks for fear of tourist loss; hunt continues
Published: May 10, 2021 09:40 PM
The second recaptured leopard. Photo: screenshot of report by local media

The second recaptured leopard. Photo: screenshot of report by local media

Before the Hangzhou Safari Park in East China's Zhejiang Province finally admitted that three leopards had escaped from the park, the predators - also first-class national protected animals - had wandered around one of China's most populous cities for more than two weeks. Local authorities reported this shocking concealment on Monday.

In the past few days, the news of the escape of three leopards from the park in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, made national headlines. In particular, the park's concealment of the beasts' escape sparked public outrage. 

According to previous information, the escaped leopards were spotted by local residents in a village in Hangzhou as early as May 1, and they were reported to local police on May 7. However, the park had neither reported the situation nor alerted the public until May 8. 

At a news conference on Monday, local officials released even more shocking news. Back on April 19, two park staff members failed to follow safety norms while cleaning inside the park, allowing the three juvenile leopards to escape, Wang Hong, deputy mayor of Hangzhou, said at the press conference.

The company then held an internal meeting, believing that reporting the incident would affect the park's visitor count and revenue during the May Day holidays, so it decided to search for the leopards on its own, and strictly forbade any employees from making the issue public. On April 21, the company captured one escaped leopard.

The past May Day holidays were the hottest May Day holiday ever, as Hangzhou, one of the country's most popular tourist cities, received millions of travelers. According to data released by the local government, Hangzhou Safari Park received 97,700 visitors during the holiday. Based on the ticket prices posted on its official website, ticket sales are estimated at more than 15 million yuan ($2.34 million).

Due to the concealment that had a huge negative impact, the park has been ordered to suspend operations. The government has sent a working group to the park to supervise the rectification, and the park will be closed indefinitely until the rectification is completed, local authorities said at the news conference. 

The local police have also opened an investigation. A total of five people, including the company's legal person, have been seized in accordance with the law.

Another escaped leopard, which was recaptured on May 8, is being treated for a minor injury to its right paw. The last escaped leopard is still at large. On Sunday, the rescue team said it had locked on to its general location, but an official said on Monday that "long-term preparations may need to be made."