China’s zoos, wildlife parks are in financial crisis
Wildlife Park Workers on Strike, Leaving Animals Unfed
Hundreds of workers at a state-owned wildlife park in south China’s Guangdong Province are on strike in protest against pay levels, leaving the animals unfed.
Shenzhen Wildlife Park closed to visitors on Thursday morning, saying it was unsafe as no staff were working, the Nanfang Daily reported on Friday.
Only foreign tourists in a package tour were admitted, but found few animals on view. They said they saw monkeys eating weeds from lake.
More than 100 park keepers gathered in front of an office building beside the entrance gate, holding a banner asking to be justly paid for “10 years of toil.”
A man surnamed Xie, who worked in the park’s transport department, said all 400 park workers were on strike the whole of Thursday.
Xie said the dispute started when the park, affiliated to Shenzhen Tourism (Group) Corporation, tried to convert into a stock-holding enterprise last year.
It began cut overtime payments and withheld social security premiums for workers, while compensating more than 10 managers 100,000 yuan (US$12,500) each before they left the park, he said.
“Many of us have worked for the park for more than 10 years. We are extremely busy at weekends and holidays, but are only paid three yuan every extra hour. It’s a violation of the labor law,” he said.
The park fired 25 employees from its transport department in October, exacerbating the dispute.
There is no timetable for the re-opening of the park.
Shenzhen Wildlife Park has highlighted the financial crises facing many of China’s zoos and wildlife parks.
Early last month, a manager at the cash-strapped Bingchuan Zoo in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, pleaded for public donations to feed the 1,000 animals in the zoo.
In the island province of Hainan, the Nantai Lake Crocodile Zoo has reportedly begun to sell crocodile meat, as it can no longer provide for its 2,000 crocodiles.
According to the Chinese Society of Zoological Gardens, China had 173 public zoos in 1998, but many new safari parks have since emerged.
There are no official figures of the animals in captivity, but zoologists fear their well-being may be at risk as zoos and parks have failed to improve their management to match up to their continuous expansion and renovation.
Conservationists complain that animals are given too little space and few schools have made zoos destinations for field studies, an education goal zoos are supposed to serve.
Only a few zoos and wildlife parks are able to attract steady tourist flows to sustain themselves, given limited government funding.
Experts urge related government departments to play a responsible supervision role and recommend public donations as a way out of their financial crises.