Snow Leopard Shot and Killed as 'a Last Resort' After Escaping Enclosure at British Zoo

Two-and-a-half years after the death of Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, another zoo animal has been killed because it was labeled as a threat to public safety.

According to the BBC, a senior member of the Dudley Zoo’s firearms team shot and killed Margaash the snow leopard after the 8-year-old big cat escaped his enclosure through a door left open by keeper error.

Dudley Zoo, located in Dudley, England, released a statement on its website regarding Margaash’s death, which occurred on Oct. 23 but wasn’t announced publicly until Nov. 30.

According to the zoo, once Margaash was spotted outside his enclosure, “the animal escape procedure was implemented and managers were notified, while the firearms team managed the incident.”

While the zoo was closed and empty of guests at the time of the snow leopard’s escape, the zoo said the animal was still a threat to public safety.

“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 tranquilizer dart was a safe option due to the amount of time the drug takes to work,” Zoo Director Derek Grove said in the zoo’s statement. “Safety of the public is always of paramount importance and our staff are highly experienced and rigorously trained.”

Grove added that the zoo’s staff is “understandably heartbroken” over the loss. The keepers responsible for leaving the door to Margaash’s enclosure open are under investigation. Zoo staff said they used the month between Margaash’s death and now to closely investigate the incident and to “carry out a stringent review of all zoo enclosure security.”

Margaash, who shared his enclosure with a 3-year-old female snow leopard, moved to the zoo in 2011. The snow leopard is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, with less than 4,000 mature snow leopards left in the wild.

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