Animal protection groups are once again pleading with zoo-goers in China to stop feeding the animals – especially if what they’re feeding to them is widely recognised as one of the most poisonous plants in the world.
Two animals were killed over the Spring Festival at Donghu Zoo in Fujian province after tourists allegedly fed them toxic oleander leaves, Fujian-based Straits City News reported  on Wednesday.
It is the second publicised case in two months that a Chinese zoo has been accused of not stopping animal abuse. In January, a Hangzhou zoo was grilled after photos of visitors throwing snowballs at lions surfaced on social media.
After finding an alpaca unresponsive and foaming at the mouth early one morning, vets were called to Donghu Zoo. The alpaca eventually died and an autopsy discovered traces of oleander in its body. A red panda from the zoo suffered the same fate just days later.
The alpaca was one of three delivered to the Chuanzhou zoo in January and was one of the zoo’s top attractions.
Despite repeatedly warning tourists not to feed the animals at the zoo, keepers struggle to enforce the rule, particularly during peak seasons such as the Lunar New Year break. According to the news report, visitors were seen feeding French fries to the animals.
Alpacas have strong social connotations in China, particularly amongst China's massive population of netizens. Pronounced caonima (translated literally as grass mud-horse ) in Mandarin, it can also be used as a pun for “f*** your mother” and is one of many “coded memes” used on social media to express dissent.
According to the China Digital Times , the grass-mud horse has become the “de facto mascot for netizens fighting for freedom of expression in China”.