BEIJING (AFP) – A Chinese zoo's supposed "African lion" was exposed as a fraud when the dog used as a substitute started barking.
The zoo in the People's Park of Luohe, in the central province of Henan, replaced exotic exhibits with common species, according to the state-run Beijing Youth Daily.
It quoted a customer surnamed Liu who wanted to show her son the different sounds animals made -- but he pointed out that the animal in the cage labelled "African lion" was barking.
The beast was in fact a Tibetan mastiff -- a large and long-haired breed of dog.
"The zoo is absolutely cheating us," the paper quoted Liu, who was charged 15 yuan ($2.45) for the ticket, as saying. "They are trying to disguise the dogs as lions."
Three other species housed incorrectly included two coypu rodents in a snake's cage, a white fox in a leopard's den, and another dog in a wolf pen.
The chief of the park's animal department, Liu Suya, told the paper that while it does have a lion, it had been taken to a breeding facility and the dog -- which belonged to an employee -- had been temporarily housed in the zoo over safety concerns.
Users of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo service mocked the zoo.
"This is not funny at all. It's sad for both the zoo and the animals," said one.
"They should at least use a husky to pretend to be a wolf," said another.