Last month, Margaash the snow leopard escaped his enclosure and the Dudley Zoo employees scrambled to return him to his home.
But Margaash did not want to go inside his home.
So what did the zookeeper of Dudley Zoo do?
In an announcement earlier this week, the news was met with much discord as the 8-year-old leopard technically died a month ago, according to the English zoo.
The zoo had closed for the day and visitors had left on the day that Margaash was shot.
It is causing animal advocates to ask questions as to why exactly did Margaash need to be put down so swiftly.
Zoo management went on to explain in a statement how a zookeeper had left the gate to Margaash’s enclosure open.
The zoo veterinarian had cautioned staff not to use a tranquilizer dart on the animal when employees saw Margaash getting dangerously close to the forest outside.
So instead, one of the zoo’s “firearm team” targeted Margaash and shot him down.
“The animal was close to surrounding woodland and dark was approaching, [so] the vet did not believe a tranquiliser dart was a safe option due to the amount of time the drug takes to work,” the statement said. “Safety of the public is always of paramount importance.”
Campaign director for Zoocheck, Julie Woodyer, disagrees.
“When animals are bored in their environments, they look for opportunities to escape,” Woodyer said. “In this case, I would suggest that the public was likely not at much risk, since snow leopards are generally shy animals. If the animal was not actually threatening anyone … the zoo did have the time to tranquilize him.”
But sadly, shooting deaths are common at zoos.
And what is to blame for this?
“These occurrences are more common than they should be,” Woodyer continued. “Zoos claim to provide safe and enriching environments for animals, and they claim to be providing educational and conservation value. This incident highlights that they are failing miserably on all fronts.”
Today, there are only 5,000 snow leopards left on the planet and due to poaching and habitat loss, that number only diminishes.
And despite zoos claiming to help these cats in the wild — they actually spend more funds on putting them in captivity, according to Woodyer.
“This then not only fails to provide any legitimate conservation value for their counterparts remaining in the wild, but it also results in a false education about the natural behavior of these animals,” Woodyer said. “Most zoo visitors will only see the animals pacing in meaningless patterns or laying around with nothing to do.”
Although Margaash cannot be brought back, the Dudley Zoo has announced it will be investigating the incident.
Animal advocates by the hundreds have voiced their sadness about the terrible error and are hoping that the Dudley zoo, as well as others, can observe what happens when humans make tragic mistakes with their exotic animals.
If you were moved by this story and want to help other leopards like Margaash, you can make a donation today to Snow Leopard Trust, here.
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