The People’s Park of Luohe in the Chinese province Henan has an amazing “African lion” on exhibit for spectators.
But the most amazing fact about this proud creature is that it’s actually a dog, not a lion.
As Agence France-Presse reports, the hoax was exposed when the dog, a Tibetan mastiff, started barking.
According to the state-run publication Beijing Youth Daily, a mother and son heard the unexpected sound coming from the alleged lion during a recent visit to the zoo.
The paper says the zoo has been replacing exotic species with substitutes, including placing two rodents in a snake’s cage, a white fox in a leopard’s den and a common dog in a wolf’s pen.
“The zoo is absolutely cheating us,” the visitor, Sharon Liu, told the paper. “They are trying to disguise the dogs as lions.”
Liu and other zoo visitors reportedly paid 15 yuan ($2.45) for the chance to see the dog and other substitute animals up close.
And this is far from the only case of animal impersonation in China. There have also been recent reports of Chinese zoo officials painting dogs black and white to make them look like pandas.
Liu Suya, chief of the zoo’s animal department, told the paper that the actual lion has been temporarily sent to a breeding facility.
"The wolf is somewhere else in the pen and the dog is a pet,” another zoo official told the Oriental Daily. “The African lions will be back. They went to another zoo to breed."
The zoo’s head also told the paper that the signs outside the African lion cage would be changed until the actual lion returns.