A snow leopard has been shot after it escaped from an enclosure in Dudley Zoo due to a "keeper error" who left it open.
The tragic incident occurred on October 23 2018 at around 5pm, which is when most visitors already left the zoo. However, details about the killing was only released today after Dudley Zoo confirmed Margaash’s death "with enormous sadness" leaving members of staff "heartbroken".
The announcement comes after an internal investigation into the event which has now been concluded. The zoo did not confirm what the investigation uncovered.
It is claimed Margaash was killed by a single shot made by a member of the firearms team, however many members of the public are questioning why the snow leopard was not simply tranquilised and returned to his enclosure.
In response to this, staff have commented that they felt they had no other option in the interest of public safety.
The zoo’s director, Derek Grove, said:
"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 concerned that a tranquiliser shot would take too long to take effect and too many lives could be endagered to take that risk.
Margaash was born in May 2010 at Norfolk’s Banham Zoo and was taken to Dudley Zoo in September 2011, where he lived alongside three-year-old female snow leopard named Taïga.
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.
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 the importance of saving this amazing species.