A court in east China’s Zhejiang Province on Friday sentenced six people, including the legal representative of the Hangzhou Safari Park, to prison terms after three leopards escaped from the park.

 The People’s Court of Fuyang District, Hangzhou City, handed down jail terms ranging from one year and two months to two years with a suspension of the sentences.

According to the court ruling, Ding Zengquan and two other feeders of the park had breached safety regulations that resulted in the leopards fleeing the park between the afternoon of April 18 and the morning of April 19.

After the incident, management of the company, including its legal representative Zhang Dequan, decided to cover up the truth to avoid economic losses and reputational damage.

The defendants launched a hunt for the leopards secretly, capturing one on April 21.

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They did not admit the incident until the local public security and forestry departments received reports from the public on the night of May 7.

Another leopard was found on May 8, while one continues to be at large to date.

All the defendants violated relevant safety regulations resulting in serious consequences, thus committing a crime of causing a major-liability accident, noted the court verdict.

It added that the defendants got lighter punishment because they surrendered themselves and voluntarily pleaded guilty. (Xinhua/NAN)