The third untracked leopard has been on the run for 29 days, and searchers have no clue as to its whereabouts, even local veteran hunters are at their wits’ end. A search and rescue team member said that if there was no under-reporting, the search would obviously not have been so difficult. Now, the leopard “could have gone to Anhui”.
This is a storm caused by under-reporting. It was not until the end of the May Day holiday that the zoo admitted to officials that three leopards had been lost as early as April 19, after villagers and residents had continuously called the police. Up to now, only 2 leopards have been recovered.
The incident triggered panic among the local people and public opinion questioning. In order to quell the public opinion, according to the WeChat public number Extreme Day on May 17, Hangzhou almost used public security, special police, forest rangers, hunters, various private rescue teams, thousands of people entered the mountain forest, drones, helicopters and hounds have also joined the search. But the 3rd leopard has been on the run for nearly a month, and the searchers still can’t find any trace of it.
On May 2, Longmenkan villager Zhu Caisong had seen a leopard less than three meters away from him. The leopard eventually jumped into the bushes between two fir trees and disappeared with a “swoosh”.
The next day, Zhu Caisong went up the mountain and saw the leopard again, this time halfway up the mountain, six or seven meters away, he threw a small stone at it and missed, the leopard ran deeper into the jungle. When he reached the top of the mountain, he found the fertilizer that he had not taken away the day before scattered on the ground for more than ten meters, and the bag was nowhere to be found.
At the dinner table, this incident was shared by Zhu Caisong as a strange story. The neighbors said, “Is it really a leopard? If so, it’s too scary.”
In Zhu Caisong’s impression, three villagers also saw the leopard, but when they were investigated by the police, they all denied it, “afraid of trouble”.
On the morning of May 6, Zhu Caisong’s sister Ping from the same village was the first to send an alarm message. Ping opened a small restaurant in the village, usually entertaining villagers and tourists. She was worried about the leopard hurting people going up the mountain and the children running around.
Ping recalled that the police officer who took the statement could not remember how to write the word “leopard”, so he wrote it down on a piece of paper: “baozi”.
According to the Hangzhou Forestry and Water Resources Bureau, after receiving the news, the bureau assigned the forestry department of West Lake District to investigate and verify the scene, but the traces were unclear after the rain and the photos were too blurry, so they could only be judged as “suspected leopards” and could not be confirmed.
On May 7, twenty kilometers away, the watchdog of the villa Golden Garden Villa, Xiaohei, saw the leopard. In the surveillance video, the leopard looked a little nervous, jumping into the yard, hanging his tail, lowering his body, going around a tree and looking around. Just as the leopard turned its head, Blackie rushed over and tangled around it. Perhaps frightened by Blackie, the leopard ran a few steps, leaped and jumped outside the fence.
The appearance of a fierce beast like a leopard made the nearby residents panic. The lady owner was at home when the dog and the leopard fought. She called the police. When another owner of Golden Garden Villa came home at night, there were many police cars parked in the neighborhood.
For two days in a row, people sent out alarms, but until then, the source of the leopard remained a mystery.
More than a dozen villagers said they had not seen the leopard. Only one grandmother, who went up the mountain one day, heard the suspected leopard’s cry.
For several days in a row, Hangzhou was rainy and cloudy. Thermal imaging captured leopard tracks in the mountains near Hejia Village. At 1 a.m. on May 9, searchers with more than a dozen search and rescue dogs, equipped with anesthesiologists, took a huddle approach to slowly approach from the periphery. But perhaps sensing something, the young leopard ran away at a fast pace.
The local media was the first to report the message. Hejia Village is located at the foot of the southeast hill of Wu Chao Mountain, not far from Longmenkan Village where Zhu Caisong is located.
However, the leader of a rescue team said his team was on the scene when the report described “the third leopard’s whereabouts being discovered”. “Our team and the anesthesiologist went up the mountain to confirm. It was just a love affair between two wildcats that had lengthened their bodies to fool the thermal imaging camera.”
The early morning roundup ended in failure.
The frontline mountain search was mainly handled by various civilian rescue teams. In contrast, they are the more professional rescuers. In Fuyang district alone, five teams are involved, all volunteers, with members including drivers, insurance practitioners, businessmen, and former hunters. But for all of them, it was a first time to find a leopard.
Different search and rescue teams have different equipment and status. Take the five teams in Fuyang District as an example, some are incorporated under the name of the Red Cross, with annual grants, some have commercial sponsorship, with several drones, etc.
However, all the teams have not found any more reliable traces of the leopard.
One search and rescue team member said that the search obviously would not have been so difficult if there had not been underreporting. Now, no one knows if the leopard is still in this forest. A whole area is hilly, and “running to Anhui is a possibility”.
On May 12, after four days of searching, a member of the rescue team said he was tired of going home every morning and felt little hope.
Hunters from nearby towns joined in. Including the Wu Chaoshan forest more peripheral mountains, Fuyang District delineated ten grid, assigned to different rescue teams. 11, a group of nine of these hunters, led by a local guide into the mountains.
But this time, there was nothing the old hunters could do. Because of the rain, the smell left by animal footprints was washed away early, the plants pulled out new shoots, every step is slippery soles, these 60- and 70-year-old people walking in the mountains have to be careful.
After participating in two or three days of search and rescue, the old hunters returned to their homes dozens of kilometers away and did not continue.
The battle did not end easily in the Noonchao Mountains. The leopard was not found one day, there are tea farmers dare not go up the mountain one day. Originally planned to be held on May 16, Hangzhou cross-country race, “considering the personal safety of participants”, also postponed. Some rescue teams have become significantly fewer participants.