The last of three leopards who escaped from a safari park in Hangzhou, China, eluded capture at the weekend, outwitting pursuers in a game of cat and mouse.
According to an announcement from the Fuyang District government, residents living near the Hangzhou Safari Park spotted the wild cats last week and alerted authorities.
On Friday, surveillance video posted online showed one of the leopards walking near the upscale Jinyuan Villa area east of the park. The local government said in a statement that search teams were deployed and that two of the leopards were found.
A major search for the third has now commenced, with officials and locals searching on foot and by drone. The leopard was spotted in a popular tourist area known for its green tea bushes Sunday.
Since Saturday, more than 1,000 people from 22 villages have been engaged in a 24-hour search, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV.
Although it is unclear how the big cats escaped, they are believed to have been on the run for around a week until two of them were captured and returned home on Saturday.
The safari park's owners, who denied reports that any of its animals were missing Friday, apologized Saturday, admitting they didn't reveal the escape because they didn't want to cause panic.
It also attempted to downplay the risk the big cats posed to the public, saying they were only juveniles and not aggressive.
"We were worried that the announcement of the incident would cause panic," park administrators said.
The statement also said administrators felt as the leopards were all juveniles, there was little risk, but added it was a mistake and "we sincerely accept the criticism" made by the public.
The Hangzhou Safari Park has been closed while authorities conduct an investigation. The individual in charge of the park was detained by police.
The zoo, which opened in 2002, is home to over 200 animal species, including pandas and elephants. The leopards were confined to the Dangerous Predator Zone.