BEIJING – Behold the regal lion and hear its mighty ... bark?
A zoo in the central China city of Luohe attempted to pass off a Tibetan mastiff as a lion, state media reported. The large, aggressive breed has a trademark bushy mane that gives it a lion-like appearance, but its vocalizations are more woof than roar.
The Beijing Youth Daily said Friday the zoo also had a dog in the wolf cage, foxes in the leopard enclosure and nutrias in the snake den.
Though the zoo said it wasnt trying to fool anyone, it issued a public apology and closed for rectification, reported another newspaper, the Beijing News. It also planned to reorganize its management structure, although the details were pending, the newspaper said.
The Beijing Youth Daily quoted zoo manager Liu Suya as denying any attempt at deception, saying the lion had been lent out for breeding and would be back soon.
The dog belonged to a friend of a zookeeper who was on a business trip and needed a place to keep his pet while away, Liu said.
Liu said the leopard had also been lent out for breeding, while the snake and wolf were merely sheltering from the torrid summer heat.
The substitute animals had been drafted because an empty cage would have looked bad, Liu said.
If visitors require an explanation, wed be happy to give it to them, Liu said.
Calls to the zoo rang unanswered.
The Beijing Youth Daily said it was informed of the odd situation by a zoo visitor who had been taking her son around the enclosures to teach him the sounds that various animals make.
He said they were fooling us because the lion was actually barking, the visitor was quoted as saying.