An animal park says it is “devastated and outraged” after a young Eurasian lynx which escaped last month was shot dead on the orders of the local council.
Lillith, who was 18 months old and twice the size of a domestic cat, had been missing from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom near Aberystwyth since October 29.
Park staff said that the animal did not pose a threat to humans but Ceredigion Council ordered she be killed after she “strayed over to a populated area of the community”.
The holiday park condemned the council decision, saying that while staff had been using humane methods to recapture Lillith, they had been “pressured from the start to allow marksmen to hunt her with live ammo”.
A park spokesman wrote on Facebook: “I would like to make it clear to everyone … that the decision to kill her was not ours and we in no way agreed to or participated in the shooting of our baby Lynx.
“We are truly devastated and outraged that this happened.”
There were several sightings of the cat during an operation by keepers, assisted at times by a police helicopter, to return the animal to the park around six miles from Aberystwyth.
The animal park said a chance to recapture Lillith two days ago as she slept under a caravan in a closed holiday park was missed after a council official slipped and fell over while getting closer to take a picture.
“When we got there the caravan was boarded in on three sides with decking and all we had to do was sling a net across the back and we would have had her trapped,” the park spokesman said.
“Unfortunately, one of the officials insisted that he needed to photograph her and make a positive ID before we were allowed close.
“He slipped and fell going up the bank which startled her causing her to run past him and off across the fields.
“After a fruitless search we were informed that due to her being in a heavily populated area they would be issuing a shoot to kill order and we had run out of time.
“We made one final effort yesterday to lay traps for her and we were out all day looking for her with catch nets, but the shocking call came in late last night that they had killed her.
“In just 24 hours they had called in marksmen who had used state-of-the-art night scopes and thermal imaging cameras to hunt her down and shoot her dead.
“To say we were devastated was an understatement.”
However Ceredigion Council said the decision had been taken to humanely destroy the wild animal after the risk it posed to the public increased “to severe” following failed attempts to recapture it.
A statement shared by Aberystwyth central councillor Ceredig Davies on Facebook said: “Despite exhaustive multi agency efforts to recapture the class A animal, the multi-agency group responding to the incident received additional advice late on Friday afternoon, 10 November, from a specialist veterinary surgeon that the risk to public well-being had increased from moderate to severe due to the continued failure of the Wild Animal Kingdom to recapture the Lynx.
“The safety of the public was paramount and therefore once the Lynx had strayed over to a populated area of the community it was necessary to act decisively.”
According to the park there have never been any recorded attacks by a lynx on a human, but officials warned that they were wild animals with sharp teeth and claws and “will attack if cornered or trapped”.
Dozens of people replied to Mr Davies’s post expressing their outrage at the decision to kill the animal.
One wrote: “Question: if it was in close enough range to be killed, why could it not have been shot with a sedative?”
Another said: “Other countries can tranquillise big cats & other wildlife, capture and move them to another location away from populated areas. Shame on Ceredigion.”