PROTESTORS demonstrated outside Dudley Zoo against the zoo's decision to shoot dead a snow leopard who had escaped from its enclosure.

A group of peaceful protestors from community group Black Country Vegans, took Castle Hill outside the zoo on Sunday, December 2.

Up to 20 people braved the rain and cold to express their anger at the zoo after Margaash, an eight-year-old snow leopard, was shot dead in October after escaping its enclosure through a door that was left open by a member of staff.

A statement released by the zoo stated that a 'stringent review of all zoo enclosure security' had taken place after Margaash's death and a disciplinary investigation was launched into the member of staff who left the door open.

Zoo Director Derek Grove said: “This was an incredibly sad incident and our staff are understandably heartbroken."

Stacie Jayne Dunkley, aged 27, a member of the group who organised the protest, said she was inspired to organise the protest after learning of Margaash's death on Friday.

She explained: "I was gutted and angry. Straight away I went on Facebook and put it forward to the group. It's not nice."

The group held the protest on Sunday afternoon, where Stacie said they received support from the public and passing cars sounded their horns.

She said: "My main hope for the protest was that people would think twice about going to the zoo."

Explaining the decision to shoot Margaash, Derek Grove added: “Euthanasia is, and always will be, a last resort. Efforts to persuade Margaash to return to his enclosure failed and as the animal was close to surrounding woodland and dark was approaching, the vet did not believe a tranquiliser dart was a safe option due to the amount of time the drug takes to work.

“Safety of the public is always of paramount importance and our staff are highly experienced and rigorously trained.”

The news of Margaash's death provoked an outpouring of grief on social media, as readers shared their feelings on the shooting.

Sharon Parsons branded it 'absolutely disgusting' while Tina Morgan Welch paid tribute to Margaash with, 'Such a shame. Beautiful animal'.

Jan Slater added: 'Such a waste of a beautiful animal'.

Pop star Ellie Goulding retweeted a story about Margaash's death to her seven million Twitter followers, with the post 'We are the worst'.

Margaash arrived at Dudley Zoo in September 2013, where he lived with three-year-old female Taïga.