05:45 GMT20 June 2021
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    Officials with Hangzhou Safari Park previously dismissed claims that leopards had escaped from their zoo in China's Fuyang District. However, the safari park's story has changed since now-viral videos emerged on social media showing at least one of the leopards roaming around urban, residential areas.

    Hangzhou Safari Park took to Weibo on Saturday to issue an apology, and confess that three juvenile leopards did indeed escape the zoo several weeks ago. 

    The zoo claimed that officials were initially "worried that the announcement of the incident would cause panic." Additionally, the safari park considered the juvenile leopards to be "less aggressive," according to an English language translation. 

    "Our [zoo] once again apologizes for the impact of the incident," the safari park wrote, adding that it openly accepts criticism from the public. 

    A second leopard has been recovered since the Saturday announcement, while the first was captured on April 21. Authorities are cooperating with animal experts to track down the last remaining big cat, according to the Fuyang District government. 

    A total of five employees - including the general manager of the safari park - have been taken into police custody amid an investigation into the matter, the Associated Press reported on Monday. The leopards' escape is believed to have occurred due to a botched handover by the zookeepers. 

    The safari park will remain closed until the investigation wraps. 

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    Tags:
    China, arrest, Escape, probe, Investigation, leopards, animals, zoo
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