Complaints shut down Chinese ‘Animal Olympics’, photo ops

Lu Feiran

THERE will be no more kangaroo boxing at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park.

The Nanhui District wildlife center has shut down its “Animal Olympics” after complaints from city residents and animal lovers around the world, a park official said yesterday.

More than 300 creatures had been brought in all over the country for the fourth such event, which began in late September and was scheduled to run until the end of this month. The curtain came down quietly two weeks ago, officials acknowledged yesterday when questioned by Shanghai Daily.

The so-called games, held every two years, featured kangaroos boxing with humans, bears racing bicycles and other events.

They were condemned as abusive by local letter writers and on Websites around the world.

“The games never caused any trouble before, but we received complaints this year, so we stopped them,” said Su Feilong, a park official.

The park also ended the practice of allowing people to pose for pictures with small animals.

A three-year-old visitor was scratched by a lion cub when posing with the animal last week. The park agreed later to cover medical expenses, which totaled 1,000 yuan (US$125).

As a result of a similar incident in 1999, the park had to pay 18,000 in compensation to a five-year girl who was scratched by a tiger cub.

“I can’t imagine such things happening,” said Zeezee Zhong, an employee at the Shanghai branch of Roots and Shoots, an international non-governmental environmental protection organization. “The barbaric training and competition can harm animals, both physically and mentally.”

Anna Ruberg, a Denmark native who works in Shanghai as a university teacher, said she was shocked by the events at the Wild Animal Park.

“I wonder why people are interested in that stuff – it’s so cruel,” she said. “Animals in Danish parks are kept miles away from visitors, not to mention there’s no taking pictures with them.”

The park’s long-standing animal “circus,” which features bears and other creatures playing with balls, will continue.

Shanghai Zoo, on the other hand, says it takes a less-exploitative approach with its animals.

“For example, we have a sea lion feeding show in which our employees explain the lifestyle of the animals,” said zoo official Pan Xiuwen. “It is absolutely different from an animal circus,” Pan said.



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