To be or not to be - an endangered leopard cat? That is the question
To be or not to be? That is the question. Is this photo of a dead leopard cat – one of mainland China’s endangered species – or simply a dead domestic cat that looked like a leopard cat?
A Sina Weibo microblogger sparked controversy and heated debate across the mainland last Friday after posting the photograph and claiming it showed a leopard cat – one of China’s endangered animals – that had been killed in Binyang county in Guangxi province.
The picture showed a man dressed in a black jacket, smiling for the camera as he held the small cat in his hand.
The cat, which appeared to be dead, had an unusual tawny brown, black-spotted fur coat, which led some mainland Weibo users to question whether it was an endangered leopard cat?
Leopard cats, a species of wild cat that are about the same size as domestic cats but more slender in shape; they are listed as “vulnerably endangered” after being widely hunted for their fur.
Xinhuanet.com reported that Binyang police responded quickly to the concerns expressed by Weibo users.
After making inquiries with families in the county they found and questioned the man in the photo and police told xinhuanet.com that the cat had been only an ordinary domestic cat – not a leopard cat.
Police said the cat’s owner, a villager called Huang, aged 31, had explained to them that he had bought the animal at a local market in March last year.
However, Huang’s family had become annoyed by the cat because it frequently stole their food, so Huang had killed the cat about a month earlier, police told xinhuanet.com.
Huang told police that he had taken a photo of the cat simply show his younger brother because of the “special pattern on the cat’s fur”.
The xinhuanet.com report added that police had criticised Huang for his actions by police, but many mainland internet users expressed doubts about Huang’s claims about the cat.
The Weibo posting about cat was seen many thousands of users and attracted thousands of comments.
“If you ask my family, they would probably tell you it’s a giraffe,” one doubtful Sina Weibo user said.
Another blogger added: “Or you could say it’s a pineapple if you wish, as it’s also a yellowish brown colour.”