Chinese Zoo Thinks Visitors Can’t Tell the Difference Between a Dog and a Lion

Flickr user Mastino0100 A similar dog was used as a lion stand-in.

Angry zoo patrons howled, but the world roared with laughter after a Chinese zoo was caught trying to pass off a large dog as an African lion.

The subterfuge was discovered when the pseudo-lion started barking in its cage. Afterward the zoo, located in the in the People’s Park of Luohe in the central province of Henan, was found to have substituted other common animals for more exotic species, such as a white fox misidentified as a leopard, and another dog found in a wolf pen.

Liu Suya, the head of the park’s animal department, told the state-run Beijing Youth Daily that an employee’s Tibetan mastiff was held in the cage for safety reasons while the zoo’s actual lion was temporarily at a breeding facility. No explanations were given for the other animal switches.

Swapping animals is nothing new for zoos across the world, although it’s typically not this brazen. Near Gaza City, donkeys were painted with stripes to resemble zebras after an Israeli blockade prevented them from importing the animals. In Boston and Tokyo, zoo employees don animal costumes to practice their annual dangerous animal escape drills. And years ago in Houston, embarrassed zoo officials admitted its coral snake had been replaced with a rubber doppelganger for six months.

Have you every witnessed anything like this happening at your local zoo?