An employee dressed as a snow leopard at a Tokyo zoo as part of an annual animal-escape drill.

3 Leopards Escape Zoo, Zoo Pretends It Doesn’t Notice

A leopard on the loose seems like something you would and should tell someone about. But three? Nah, no worries. Let them roam.

And that’s exactly what Hangzhou Safari Park in China did when the safari park ‘lost’ three leopards in April but just didn’t tell anyone. The park was super-vague about the details of when the wild cats made their escape, but eventually announced that they had fled on April 19 when caretakers most likely left the doors open. The park’s explanation for not letting the public know? Oh, the cats were only young, so they probably wouldn’t kill you. No cause for alarm, and certainly not worth the fuss of a panic. Would you, or would you not, shit yourself if you ran into a leopard walking down the street? Let me answer that one for you—yes. The answer is yes.

Two of the leopards were found by Monday, but one was still enjoying the life of a free cat. Let’s name him Papillon. Searchers brought in 90 live chickens to lure the escapee, and the search was done in secret. The hunt almost ended when tea farmer Zhu Caifeng spotted the leopard in his field and took a quick snap on his iPhone but was hesitant to notify officials in case it bought unnecessary drama. After some reflection, however, Zhu Caifeng thought the public should probably know, and he released the picture on WeChat, China’s social media service.

Chinese news reports initially denied the leopards were missing, and the park temporarily closed for unspecified issues. Suss. Later, probably realising the cat is well and truly out of the bag (groan), the local government and zoo revealed that, yes, some leopards had been on the loose and one was still out there. ‘We’re sincerely sorry,’ they said. People were pretty pissed off, obviously. Search parties ramped up, and even a powered parachute was dispatched to try and locate the missing leopard from the sky. Chinese news sites offered better late than never advise on what to do if you run into Papillon, who is still at large.

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