A snow leopard had to be put down after it escaped from its enclosure in Dudley Zoo in the West Midlands due to a ‘keeper error’.
The eight-year-old leopard, named Margaash, broke free from his enclosure after a zoo keeper left it open.
The tragic incident occurred on October 23 at approximately 5pm, after visitors had already left the zoo, leaving members of staff ‘heartbroken’. However, details were only just released this morning (November 30), with Dudley Zoo confirming Margaash’s death ‘with enormous sadness’.
The announcement follows a disciplinary investigation into those involved, which has now reached a conclusion. The zoo have not confirmed what the outcome of the investigation has been.
Margaash was killed by a single shot made by a senior member of the firearms team, and reportedly did not suffer.
However, many members of the public are asking why the leopard was shot and killed, rather than tranquilised and returned to his enclosure.
In response to this, staff at the zoo have said that they ‘had no other option’, and the tough decision was taken ‘in the interest of public safety’.
Derek Grove, the zoo’s director, said, via BBC News:
This was an incredibly sad incident and our staff are understandably heartbroken.
Euthanasia is, and always will be, a last resort. Efforts to persuade Margaash to return to his enclosure failed and as the animal was close to surrounding woodland and dark was approaching, the vet did not believe a tranquiliser dart was a safe option due to the amount of time the drug takes to work.
Safety of the public is always of paramount importance and our staff are highly experienced and rigorously trained.
Staff were obviously concerned that, with the amount of time it takes for a tranquiliser to take effect, a loose snow leopard could still endanger lives.
Dudley Zoo has now reportedly informed those who’d ‘adopted’ Margaash, who was a beloved addition to the West Midlands zoo.
Born in May 2010 at Norfolk’s Banham Zoo, Margaash was taken to Dudley Zoo in September 2011, where he lived alongside three-year-old female snow leopard, Taïga.
According to WWF UK, the survival of snow leopards in the wild is under threat due to poaching and climate change:
The elegant and well-camouflaged snow leopard is one of the world’s most elusive cats. Thinly spread across 12 countries in central Asia, it’s at home in high, rugged mountain landscapes. But poaching and climate change are now threatening its survival.
The snow leopard has a beautiful, spotted coat, thick enough to insulate them from the cold. Their wide, fur-covered feet distribute their weight over soft snow, like natural snowshoes.
Snow leopards are solitary creatures, and very successful predators, able to kill prey up to three times their own weight.
But poaching and conflict with people have reduced their numbers. They’re suspected to have declined by at least 20% in under two decades – although estimating populations is tricky because these cats are so elusive!
Hopefully the death of Margaash will at least raise awareness of the importance of the conservation of this amazing species of animal.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.