Authorities in eastern China are using drones and hunting dogs to search for the last of three leopards that escaped from a safari park last month.
The Hangzhou Safari Park concealed the escape of three of its leopards and continued denying the breakout even after locals started reporting seeing them on the loose.
The leopards escaped from Hangzhou Safari Park on April 19 during a handover between zookeepers due to a lapse in operating procedures, officials said at a news conference on Monday (local time).
Hangzhou Deputy Mayor Wang Hong said police received calls that leopards were spotted last week but the safari park denied any had escaped.
Safari park feared a drop in visitors
The safari park failed to report the escape because it feared a drop in visitors to the park over China’s five-day Labour Day holidays, officials said.
The park instead attempted to recover the leopards privately and captured one on April 21.
The safari park eventually reported the missing leopards last Friday night (local time) and a second one was captured the next day. Both are in good health, officials said.
The final lost leopard has been spotted by a drone but fled when people attempted to approach it, according to the Global Times newspaper.
Park employees being questioned
Five safari park employees, including the general manager and legal representative of the safari park, have been taken into police custody for questioning.
The safari park said it did not make a public announcement because the young leopards were believed to be less aggressive and it wanted to prevent panic.