Chinese zoo denies mistreating bear, says animal is healthy, properly fed

Images of seemingly malnourished brown bear sparks anger online, fuels debate over animal rights abuses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 7:06pm

A zoo in central China has dismissed allegations of animal abuse after images of a seemingly emaciated brown bear appeared online.

The zoo, in Xinxiang People’s Park, Henan province, said on its Weibo microblog that the animal, which is just a year old, has a “relatively thin frame” because it is still growing and doesn’t retain fat in the same way adult bears do.

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“The zoo’s vet conducts regular health checks to make sure the bear is healthy and growing the way it should,” the statement said, adding that it is fed a “normal diet”.

The bear also has a “more slender mouth” and is currently shedding its fur, which makes it look thinner, it said.

The zoo came under fire on Monday after a visitor uploaded photos of the bear to Weibo and questioned its well-being.

“It’s skin and bones, looks so pitiful, don’t know if it was abused. Or hungry?” the person wrote under the username @lxfyghy.

“Are we really letting children look at this kind of bear? Can anyone save them?” the person added.

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Despite the zoo’s efforts to explain the situation, internet users remained sceptical.

“Shouldn’t it eat more if it’s in its growth period? It’s already too skinny!” a person wrote.

“They think people are idiots who can be fooled,” said another.

This is not the first time a Chinese zoo has come under fire.

Earlier this month, visitors to an animal park in eastern China’s Jiangsu province were horrified when a live donkey was pushed into a tiger enclosure and torn to shreds. The incident was sparked by a shareholder dispute.

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Earlier in the year, an investigation was launched at a zoo in southern China’s Guizhou province after footage circulated of a keeper dragging a tiger by its tail and ears.

Several animal rights organisations have expressed their concern over conditions at Chinese zoos.

Hong Kong-based Animals Asia has cited poor management and neglect in zoos and safari parks, as well as a lack of proper medical care and the cruel treatment of animals for entertainment purposes.

“The bear’s health is definitely a cause for concern,” said Jill Robinson, founder of Animals Asia, describing the animal as “skeletal”.

“[The bear] is either not being fed appropriately or has a medical condition that needs urgent attention,” she said.

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Jason Baker, vice president of international campaigns at animal rights group PETA, called on the Xinxiang zoo to “immediately” improve conditions for the bear.

“Although there are no penalties for the neglect or abuse of animals in zoos in China, the bear’s suffering must not be ignored,” he said.