(TMU) — While some zoos go to great lengths to recreate enclosures to be like the natural habitat as much as possible for each species it houses, many others don’t take the animal’s natural needs into consideration at all.
A recently released video taken at the Beijing Zoo in China of a scrawny tiger in a cramped enclosure walking endlessly in a circle has raised concern over the cat’s health. The deep track etched into the ground by its endless walking seems to indicate this behavior has been going on for quite a while and is likely a psychological response to its cramped living conditions, vastly different from habitat it should be roaming in.
After the video went viral, concerned social media users in China responded in dismay with comments such as “There is not enough room for the tiger,’’ “It’s ill, mentally ill,” and “The tiger looks depressed.”
In its response last Sunday to the video going viral, the Beijing Zoo said that the video wasn’t filmed recently. The tiger was apparently removed from the enclosure at the end of March after zookeepers noticed its strange behavior.
A staff member told the press: ‘’This kind of behavior is expected after animals have stayed in a zoo for a long time.’’
According to the Beijing Zoo, the tiger had been given “psychological counselling” to help the animal return to normal.
‘’We have taken the animal to receive behavior training. We also brought more food and toys for the tiger,’’ they claimed.
Concern has been raised about China’s captive animals after a series of news reports on poor conditions in zoos across the country. This was echoed by doctor Sun Quanhui, a senior scientific adviser at a non-profit organization called World Animal Protection China, who confirmed that the living conditions of creatures inside China’s animal facilities are a cause for concern.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Quanhui said that although zoos—usually run by local governments—are generally better supervised than private wildlife parks, the living conditions of animals in captivity leave a lot to be desired. He blames this on the country’s inadequate laws concerning animal rights.
He said: “Let’s just give the example of how beasts of prey are kept.
“In almost every Chinese zoo, we see them in cement cages or behind steel bars, which to some extent is considered maltreatment.
“Some are species that naturally live in groups, but they’re often isolated, which also causes them huge psychological distress.”
China’s wildlife protection law classifies wildlife according to their scarcity, but it there is no legislation to ensure the rights of other animals. There is also no oversight in the country’s zoos, which are mostly unsupervised due to the overlaps between different government agencies.
For example, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development oversees government-owned zoos, while wildlife parks fall under the jurisdiction of the State Forestry Bureau, and the fishery bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for aquariums.
A horrific incident captured on video which made headlines in 2017, highlights the disparity between different species.
The video footage, taken at a zoo in southern China, shows a group of men dragging a live donkey from a truck and pushing it off a wooden ramp into the moat around the tigers’ enclosure. The donkey was quickly attacked by one of the tigers while another clawed at its head and back.
The donkey suffered for around 30 agonizing minutes before it finally died. To this day the zoo has not faced any consequence for the incident.
One can’t help but assume that this type of incident is a regular occurrence at many zoos.
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