Was That a Giant Cat? Leopards Escape, and a Zoo Keeps Silent (at First). - The New York Times
May 10, 2021 1 min, 42 secs
The Hangzhou Safari Park in China did not admit that it was missing three of its animals for weeks, while a farmer wondered if the creature in the tea bushes was an oversize feline.

A safari park near the city of Hangzhou in eastern China is facing an onslaught of questions after it achieved that dubious feat, belatedly admitting late last week that three of its leopards had somehow absconded into the nearby hills.

Many Chinese people wondered how the Hangzhou Safari Park could lose several wildcats and hold back the news for so long.

The safari park and the government were vague at first about when the leopards escaped, but Hangzhou officials said at a news conference on Monday that they had fled on April 19 when two caretakers cleaning their enclosure violated “operational rules” — apparently by leaving doors open.

“Taking into account that the escaped young leopards were not very aggressive, and worried that disclosing the matter would trigger panic, we did not promptly disclose the news,” the safari park said in a statement on Saturday after the local government confirmed the escape and warned residents to be on guard.

Residents have described spotting the animals for at least a week before the zoo and the local authorities revealed that they had escaped, according to Chinese news reports.

Yet even after the sightings grew and residents called the police, managers at the Hangzhou Safari Park — and maybe the local authorities — appeared to have hoped to deal with the missing cats quietly during China’s May Day vacation.

Chinese news reports have said that when asked by journalists, the park initially denied that any leopards were missing.

Later that day, the government of Fuyang District, the site of the park, disclosed that the three leopards had gone missing and that one was still at large; the park then issued its apologetic admission.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries from the leopards, and the safari park and some experts said the shy, youngish cats were unlikely to attack people.

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