BEIJING • A lioness found prowling along a motorway in China after apparently jumping from a moving lorry has been shot dead by police.
How the protected animal came to be on the highway in eastern Anhui province was not clear, but the illegal raising of endangered species is not unusual in China.
Officers took "more than 20 shots" to kill the lioness after deciding it would take "too long" to get a tranquilliser gun, said the anhuinews.com portal, which is run by the province's official media. The lioness was thought to have jumped out of a loosely bolted cage on a lorry transporting it, and was first knocked down by another truck and hurt, it said yesterday.
It kept walking towards a service area, and highway staff used vehicles to set up a roadblock. "Maybe she was tired or saw there were too many cars, so the lion stopped and lay down," the report cited staff member Zhang Shuke as saying. The stand-off lasted half an hour before the police arrived and decided to shoot the animal "to protect peoples' lives", the report said.
No one has claimed the lioness, and it is believed its owner feared punishment for unauthorised possession of the protected animal.
Aside from a small population in north-western India, lions are native only to Africa, but the illegal raising of endangered species can be lucrative in China as some of their body parts are deemed to have curative properties in traditional Chinese medicine.
The media reported in March that three politicians in the eastern city of Pingdu were found to be raising at least 11 endangered Siberian tigers, after one of them jumped to its death from a high-rise building.