+ A

Public asks why puma that escaped had to die

Sept 20,2018
A zoo in Daejeon is in hot water after a puma was shot and killed after escaping from a cage Thursday evening, triggering a public outcry over why the animal had to die due to mismanagement by its caretakers.

On Tuesday, an eight-year-old female puma named Pporongi escaped its cage at the Daejeon O-World, a theme park that includes an amusement park and a zoo, around 5 p.m. It was reported missing by a zookeeper around fifteen minutes later.

Local authorities alerted residents living near Mount Bomun in Daejeon, where the zoo is located, to stay indoors.

A post-incident investigation by the Daejeon City Corporation, a public agency under the authority of the city government that manages the zoo, found that the puma managed to escape its enclosure in the large carnivore section of the zoo after a gate was left ajar by a zookeeper following morning cleaning.

Seven surveillance cameras in the area were unable to capture the escape of the approximately 60-kilogram (132-pound) animal.

Zookeepers and firefighters tracked the animal down to the zoo’s reservoir at around 6:30 p.m. Zookeepers fired two tranquilizer darts at the puma, but it evaded capture by running into nearby woods.

When it was discovered once again at 9:44 p.m. in a forested area near the zoo’s dry feed storage center, authorities decided to put the animal down with live ammunition due to the threat it posed to nearby residents and the difficulty of recapturing it in the dark.

News of the puma’s escape exploded on the internet, with many people posting that the animal should be captured alive. When reports came out that the puma had been shot, concerns turned into fury, with animal lovers lamenting Pporongi’s demise.

By Wednesday, the Blue House’s website was flooded with petitions regarding the incident. One 16-year-old boy asked that the zookeepers who left the gate open and who shot the puma be punished for causing the death of the puma, which he pointed out was an endangered animal.

The petition that received the most likes demanded that zoos all over Korea be shut down altogether since they caused suffering to wild animals under the guise of protecting them.

This public uproar led to the zoo’s managers and the head of the Daejeon City Corporation to apologize. The decision to kill the puma was based on the zoo’s written emergency procedures, they said, though they lamented the outcome.

Measures will be taken to strengthen the zoo’s security features to prevent a repeat of the incident, and the animal’s caretakers will be held accountable as soon as the incident is fully investigated, they added.

The Ministry of Environment’s Geum River Valley Management Office on Wednesday also issued a warning to the zoo. Any harm to humans as a result of the escape of a wild animal warrants an immediate shutdown of the facility, according to the ministry’s regulations.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, SHIN JIN-HO [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]