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?

Police Hunt For Lion In English Countryside (And Fail To Find One)

cat, lion
A mysterious beast stalks the fields of Essex, England.

Over the weekend local police received calls from a number of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen a lion in the fields near the village of St. Osyth. One person even snapped a predictably blurry and inconclusive picture of the beast. I’m not a wildlife expert but it looks like a house cat to me.

Police took the sightings seriously enough to scramble two helicopters and a team of officers and wildlife experts. They also checked with a local zoo and circus but neither reported a missing feline. After a long search they found … nothing.

A police spokesman said the sightings were probably due to “a large domestic cat or a wildcat,” the BBC reports. Police have called off the search and told people to enjoy themselves outdoors while remaining cautious. They should also have told them to stop overfeeding their pets with chips and kebabs and wasting police time.

This odd incident is actually part of a much bigger trend in the UK. Alien Big Cats, as they’re called, are giant felines not native to the area where they are spotted. Of course they’re never actually found. That would ruin the fun. We reported on one jaguar-like creature in Scotland three years ago and that’s just a drop in the Alien Big Cat bucket. The Big Cats in Britain research group has collected 240 different reports so far this year.

So why do Brits see lions and pumas in their fields while Americans get buzzed by UFOs? I guess it’s just one of those cultural differences we should all celebrate and not analyze too much. So next time you’re hiking in the UK, be sure to keep your camera out of focus. You might just start the next wave of Alien Big Cat sightings.

Don’t scoff too much, though. One woman said she was attacked by an Alien Big Cat. I’ve hiked a lot in England and Scotland and while I’ve never been attacked by an ABC (yes, that’s what they call them), I did nearly get attacked by cows.

[Photo courtesy Jennifer Barnard. As far as I know, this particular cat has never been the cause of a lion sighting]

The worst zoo I ever saw

zoo, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Lion ZooI feel sorry for my Harari friends.

During my stay in Harar, Ethiopia, they were so hospitable, so eager to ensure I had a 100% positive impression of their city and country. For the most part I did, and I left for the capital Addis Ababa with lots of great things to say about Ethiopia.

They should have warned me not to visit the Lion Zoo in Addis Ababa.

It’s billed as a natural wonder, where you can see rare Ethiopian black-maned lions descended from the pride that was kept in Haile Selassie’s palace. In reality, it’s a sad display of animal cruelty and neglect.

The lions, primates, and other animals are kept in undersized cages with bare concrete floors. They look bored, flabby, resigned. Several of them look sick. Visitors shout at the listless animals or even throw pebbles to get them to move. Some toss packets of chocolate or potato chips to the monkeys and laugh as they tear the packages apart to get to the food inside.

The worst are the lions, proud carnivores, kings of the wilderness, reduced to trapped objects of amusement for bored city dwellers who don’t give a shit about nature. The lions lie around most of the time, doing nothing. Occasionally one will get its feet, shake its dirty mane, take a few steps before realizing there’s nowhere to go, and then sit down with an air of defeat.

The whole place made me feel ill, yet I can’t feel morally superior. I come from a country where people freak out if someone beats a dog but cheer when a Third World country gets carpet bombed. Where a zoo like this would be a national scandal but people eat meat raised on factory farms that make Ethiopia’s Lion Zoo look like a nature reserve. Only vegans can talk about animal cruelty from any moral high ground, and I’m not a vegan. Meat tastes too good.

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But a travesty like this zoo is totally unnecessary. Ethiopia is anxious to promote itself as a tourist destination, a friendly, civilized country where Westerners can feel at home. Well, if it wants to do that, it better do something about the Lion Zoo.

Like shut it down.

So to my Harari friends, I’m sorry. You came close to getting a 100% positive series (well, except for my bumbling around Ethiopia’s Somali region) but it was not to be. I understand Ethiopia has bigger priorities than a few animals in a zoo in Addis Ababa, but if you want to make a positive impression on Western visitors, this place has got to go.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Harar, Ethiopia: Two months in Africa’s city of Saints.

Coming up next: Tomoca: the best little coffeehouse in Africa!

Tiger escapes zoo enclosure in Turkey, kills lion

tiger escapes zooA Bengal tiger escaped his enclosure at a zoo in Turkey‘s capital city of Ankara, killing a lion in the adjacent area. The lion was killed in a single swipe to the jugular vein. The tiger had previously wounded the lion last year. Ankara Zoo officials say that the tiger reached the lion through a hole in the fence between the animals and did not knock down the fence. The zoo has a remaining six tigers and two lions and is safe for visitors.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user chrisada]

Favorite lion shot in Namibia


A black-maned lion nicknamed “Old Boy” has been shot in Etosha National Park, Namibia. This is the second lion to be killed in the park in the past five months. Both lions were collared, meaning park rangers were studying and protecting them.

“Old Boy” had been a favorite among visitors for years because he lived near Hobatere Lodge. Conservationists believe he was the most frequently seen lion in the country. The park has a no-shoot policy towards collared lions, which didn’t stop a professional hunter from killing “Old Boy.” The hunter had a permit, but officials want to know why he targeted a lion that was being studied. The hunting party claimed they didn’t see the collar until the lion was dead. They also claim the lion attacked them, something “Old Boy” had never done before, although in a separate interview the hunters didn’t mention any attack.

The incident highlights the troubles conservationists face in trying to preserve animals on a continent where big game hunting is still popular.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]