A man climbs onto an elephant's back at the Wuhan Zoo on Oct 4, while visitors line up to shoot photographs with the animal. Provided to China Daily
BEIJING - The State Forestry Administration (SFA) has ordered 53 wildlife parks and zoos that stage animal shows to improve their management after inspections found animals' welfare had not been well protected.
The administration also nullified the certifications of seven other parks and zoos that violated laws.
The measures came after a nationwide inspection revealed commercial performances have led to animals' frequent abuse and exploitation.
The central government has sent six teams to monitor and evaluate 500 wildlife parks and zoos nationwide since October.
The inspections found poor management and illegal activities in some zoos and wildlife parks were increasingly causing rare species' deaths. There were also incidents in which animals injured visitors, SFA department of wildlife conservation and nature reserve management director Zhang Xiwu was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.
Some zoos were found unable to provide animals' basic care because of their insufficient profits and others were found to be engaged in illegal wildlife product sales, Zhang told a meeting in Guangzhou on Monday.
"Both the security of endangered species and the safety of the public are threatened by improper management," SFA deputy head Yin Hong told Xinhua.
An estimated 700 public zoos, wildlife parks and circuses organize animal performances, which attract about 150 million visitors a year.
International Fund for Animal Welfare Beijing office campaign manager Hua Ning told China Daily she viewed the restrictions on animal performances as a positive step toward animal rights protection.
"I believe many Chinese would be unhappy if they knew the baby tigers they hold in their arms for photos (in some zoos) have had their canine teeth pulled out," Hua said.
"The government needs to help zoos and aquariums cancel some performances that entertain visitors but harm animals."
It is important the government enforces the restrictions through surprise inspections, Hua said.
"In the long run, the government should guide zoos back to the purpose of educating people about nature's beauty and informing the public about how to better protect Earth's magnificent creatures."
Administration official Zhang Xiwu said the crackdown on illegal wildlife performances will continue over the long term, although it remained difficult to monitor circuses and individual trainers.
(China Daily 12/29/2010 page4)