A Hong Kong animal rights group has launched a campaign to stop performances and photo-taking sessions at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park, saying its treatment of the animals is cruel and appalling. Animals Asia Foundation has urged people to write to Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng to halt the 'animal Olympics' performance, which includes events such as a football match and bicycle races, involving animals ranging from monkeys to elephants. 'It's a retrograde step using animals as entertainment when countries around the world are moving away from this sort of exploitation of wild and endangered species,' the group's founder, Jill Robinson, said yesterday. The park launched the show four years ago to coincide with the National Day holidays. 'The park is one of many such parks throughout China which invent unusual and invariably cruel ways to attract more visitors,' the group said. A foundation executive who recently visited the Shanghai park also found evidence of cruelty towards animals forced to pose for photographs with visitors. 'The animals were cruelly chained and often their mouths wired shut,' the group said in a statement. The foundation called for people to write letters to the mayor as well as to China National Tourist Offices around the world and Chinese embassies to say such practices reflect poorly on Shanghai's image as an international city. A park official would not say whether its management was aware of the campaign to shut down the show, but said the performances would run until the end of next month. 'The performances are very popular. Many local parents brought their children, and tourists from outside of Shanghai came to watch the show during the National Day holiday,' she said. A Shanghai government spokesman said the city would not shut down the show because it was not breaking any laws. 'There aren't any regulations banning animal shows in our country. The city government won't stop it,' the spokesman said. The foundation waged a successful campaign to rescue bears raised for extraction of bile used in traditional medicine. It has offered to take in a blind Asiatic bear from the park and place it in the group's sanctuary in Chengdu .