Animal lovers have reacted with fury after Dudley Zoo announced it had shot dead an escaped snow leopard.
Dozens of people bombarded the attraction’s social media accounts with angry messages, dismayed at the decision to kill Margaash instead of trying to sedate him.
Some accused the zoo of being ‘evil’.
The eight-year-old leopard was killed after getting free on 23 October when the zoo had closed and all visitors had left.
An investigation found the door to the enclosure was left open at 17:00 GMT through ‘keeper error’.
But furious people have bombarded the zoo after finding out what happened to the snow leopard.
‘You are just evil,’ wrote Kel Lunny Moo.
‘The animal didn’t deserve to die just becuz [sic] one of your idiot staff didn’t close the enclosure prop. I will not be returning to a zoo that thinks it’s ok to kill a defenceless animal.’
Another, Marc James Mattinson added: ‘no visitors as he escaped after the zoo was closed, why the hell didnt you tranq him instead of killing him?’
Alison McNally Cliff wrote: ‘I hate the zoo’s for this . . . . . what quality of life did he have anyway, he should of been running free in the wild . . . . and now due to HUMAN error he’s dead . . . . VILE.’
Snow leopards are an endangered animal with as few as an estimated 4,000 left in the wild.
They are native to central Asia.
Margaash had been at Dudley Zoo since September 2011, after being born at Banham Zoo, Norfolk, a year earlier.
He was the father of a cub which died at the zoo five years ago.
‘This was an incredibly sad incident and our staff are understandably heartbroken,’ said Zoo director Derek Grove.
‘Euthanasia is, and always will be, a last resort.
‘Efforts to persuade Margaash to return to his enclosure failed and as the animal was close to surrounding woodland and dark was approaching, the vet did not believe a tranquiliser dart was a safe option due to the amount of time the drug takes to work.
‘Safety of the public is always of paramount importance and our staff are highly experienced and rigorously trained.’