Sunday, 9 December 2018
CARL WRITES: Dudley Zoo Snow Leopard Escape - 30/11/18
Dudley Zoo is back in the headlines once again following the cruel and totally unnecessary fatal shooting of Margaash – an eight year old snow leopard (Panthera uncia) who escaped from his enclosure back in October. The big cat broke free after his enclosure was left open by staff, and zoo officials made the drastic decision to terminate the extremely rare cat (rare over much of its range – with only between 3,500 and 7,000 left in the wild) after a concern for public safety, and the amount of time a tranquiliser would take to knock him out. The incident happened at 5 pm when the zoo was closed and no visitors were inside at the time.
Due to the fact Margaash escaped in the evening and had made his way into a small local woodland, and was therefore well away from busy urbanised areas, the euthanasia of this extremely rare cat is utterly unjustified.
Now, animal rights protesters from the Black Country Vegans Group have demonstrated outside the zoo after news broke last week.
“We wanted to make a point that this zoo is not a nice place and we’re not happy, we want people to think twice before spending money there”.
“He [Margaash] escaped because of keeper error, but looking at the enclosure he was in he was bound to escape, it was so small!”.
It took the zoo over a month before reporting the shooting of Margaash, so one might reasonably ask, what was the delay? It makes one think there is more to this story than meets the eye, and that we have not been told everything, the information isn’t clear and it’s definitely unsettling.
The Black Country Vegans Group has stated “We were protesting for people to think twice before going to the zoo, what other mistakes are being made that we’re not told about”.
What other mistakes indeed?
Unlike many so called British big cat experts, who generally believe the British populations are sustained by natural (even hybridised) breeding, I conclude that even though propagation has on occasion taken place (this is evidenced by some reports of mothers with cubs), the British situation is actually continually bolstered by escapees from small holdings, incompetent zoos and from illegal private collections. There are still plenty of unscrupulous zoos; and even gangsters and drug dealers who own and use big cats for territorial purposes, and it’s these animals that escape, or are released, and are generally on the loose In Britain.
Most large zoos will undoubtedly report an escapee, especially when it’s a large predator, however, there are likely to be some small holdings who choose keep the situation quiet in order to avoid negative public opinions and possible closure.
I once worked at a small zoo in Worcestershire where a non native felid, a male Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia), had previously escaped his enclosure and was never recaptured. The escapee hybridised with the local domestic cat population producing feral, and very aggressive wildcat/domestic hybrids. Once or twice, the hybrids would turn up in the local villages (and were collected) but the male wildcat that escaped the zoo was never seen again.
Regarding the escape from Dudley Zoo, Stacie Dunkley of the Black Country Vegans Group says “There was a massive outcry over this, which is good, but people need to think about the animals that are still there that need better care”.
The reason why the zoo took the drastic measure to shoot such a rare animal is clearly because they knew that if they lost track of the creature’s whereabouts for at least 24 hours they would possibly never see the him again!
And to think many people still believe there are no (and never have been any) big cats roaming the British countryside – they have clearly never heard of Felicity the Puma (1980), Xiang the Clouded Leopard (1987), Lara the Lynx (2001), and now, for a short while, the unfortunate case of Margaash the Snow Leopard (2018). Personally for me, there is really no mystery at all concerning the British big cat phenomena – they are very rare, and are mostly unrecorded, escapees, nothing more!
“I visited Dudley Zoo many years ago in my teenage years (I’m now 66) and thought back then it was kind to animals. But after this awful, and completely unnecessary atrocity regarding Margaash, the snow leopard, I have now completely changed my opinion and shall never visit again”
“Shame on Dudley Zoo for destroying such a rare and beautiful animal”.
Mrs. Frances L. Marshall, Welford on Avon, Warwickshire (05/12/2018).
I couldn’t agree more!