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(RNN) – Be weary of lions that bark.
Visitors of the People's Park Zoo in Louhe in the province Henan, China were outraged that many domesticated animals were dressed as nature's biggest predators.
The biggest sham - a Tibetan mastiff posed as an African lion. Someone at this zoo forgot that lions are members of the big cat family. Most patrons of the zoo figured it out when the lion began to bark.
According to the South China Morning Post, customers confronted a zoo administrator about what they consider "an insult" to visitors and tourists. Several media reports indicated that customers were told that the zoo has a lion, but it was at an offsite breeding facility. The mastiff belonged to a member of the zoo's staff, and was placed in the lion's cage for "safety reasons," and the issues would be "promptly corrected."
The zoo charges visitors 15 yuan, or $2.45 U.S., for admission.
Other switcheroos at the zoo include rats as snakes, a white fox posed as a leopard and another dog said to be a wolf. The head of the zoo's animal department told CNN that the zoo's animals the substitutes are temporary and that the real animals would be back soon.
The zoo denied that the substitutes were because of low funds. The SCMP reported that in 2010, the Chinese government stopped giving contracts to zoos that were privately operated, but that the contract for the People's Park Zoo had not expired.
The incident with the zoo's "lion" isn't the first time man's best friend has been used to manipulate the masses. In 2011, it was a pet-pampering trend throughout Southeast Asia to paint dogs as pandas and other wild animals.
The Tibetan mastiff, or Do-Khyi in China, has become a status symbol in China, with a single dog priced in the upper six-figures. The breed traces its origins to ancient China and are known for having a massive frame, thick coats and a gentle temperament.