The Tama Zoo on the western outskirts of Tokyo staged a drill to train staff what to do in the event of an animal escape.

A staff member dressed as a snow leopard "escaped its enclosure" and knocked over a member of staff. Other zoo employees chased after it with nets, poles and tranquilliser darts.

japan zoo escaped animal drill
Zoo keepers pretend to fire a tranquilliser dart at the 'escaped snow leopard'Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A zoo employee checks the effectiveness of a 'tranquilliser' on the 'escaped snow leopard'Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP

The zoo said the drill was designed to simulate animals escaping after a disaster like an earthquake. "We focused on making this drill as realistic as possible. One of our staff being knocked down, injured and then being knocked unconscious and going into cardiac arrest was a part of that," Tama zoological park director, Yutaka Fukada, explained.

Zoo visitors watching the event had trouble taking the rather fluffy leopard seriously. "It's not scary at all," three-year-old Toki Yokomatsu said.

"He's not scary at all, but chasing him down the hill must have been quite a bit of work," said three-year-old Sora Ichikawa.

Not scaring the children was a disappointment for the man in the snow leopard costume. "Personally I feel I did my best but it didn't work for kids. I'm a bit disappointed," Toshiya Nomura said.

A total of 70 staff members took part in the exercise as well as police and local emergency workers who finally apprehended the "leopard" on the loose.

Tokyo's Tama and Ueno Zoos take it in turns to stage these drills every February. Previous "escaped animals" have included a couple of gorillas, a realistic rhinoceros, a fairly realistic zebra, and a decidedly fake zebra.

japan zoo escaped animal drill
Zookeepers hold a net to capture a keeper dressed as a gorilla at the Ueno zoo on 6 February, 2014Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A zookeeper aims a tranquilliser gun at a keeper dressed in a gorilla costume at the Ueno zoo on 6 February, 2014Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
Zookeepers prod a man in a gorilla suit to make sure he's unconscious after being tranquillised, on 6 February, 2014Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A keeper checks if a mock zebra is unconscious after it was shot with a 'tranquilliser dart' at Tama Zoo on 1 February, 2013Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
Zookeepers put a net over a man dressed as a zebra after it was 'tranquillised' on 1 February, 2013Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A (very) fake zebra makes a break for freedom during the annual exercise for runaway animals at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo on 20 February, 2008Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A real zebra watches as a fake zebra runs past its enclosure at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo on 20 February, 2008Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A warden protects visitors from an employee dressed as an escaped gorilla during a drill at Ueno Zoo on 21 February, 2006Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
japan zoo escaped animal drill
A Ueno Zoo employee dressed as an escaped gorilla is captured during a training exercise on 21 February, 2006Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
japan zoo escaped animal drill
Children run away from Ueno Zoo employees in a rhinoceros costume on 26 February, 2004Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images