I’m no zoologist, but maybe tigers deserve a bit more dignity than tugging on a knapsack pulled by two-legged jackals?
Some netizens seem to agree. Via Shanghai Daily:
Many netizens thought the games between human beings and tigers are inappropriate. One netizen worried that a tooth of the tigers might be pulled out.
This is at Changsha Ecological Zoo in Changsha, Hunan province. A live chicken is in that sack. Tourists pay 45 yuan for the right to participate.
It is reported that in one such game, seven tourists lost to a four-year-old Amur tiger.
We’ve seen this before. Last October, a zoo in Wuhan pulled out the rope for tigers to tug against humans, prompting me to write, “Judging by the popularity of the spectacle, expect copycat schemes to pop up in zoos around the country.” What took so long?
The Changsha zoo’s public relations team has tried to spin the activity as being healthy for the tigers:
Yi Ting, a media staffer at the zoo, said yesterday that the tug-of-war game aims to train the wild Siberian tigers and stimulate them, avoiding sickness that could be caused by their long-term captivity in the zoo. Tourists who buy a ticket for 45 yuan (US$7.36) can participate in the game.
That’s incredible. Look at that quote again. A zoo that keeps animals in captivity long-term is admitting that its solution to preventing sickness caused by long-term zoo captivity is… tug-of-war.
No wonder sometimes zoo animals here sometimes look like this.
Zoo’s tiger-human tug-of-war game condemned by netizens (Shanghai Daily via Sina, h/t Alicia)
UPDATE, 10/1, 2:55 pm: Here’s a video via The Diplomat:
I AM A ZOOLOGIST!… almost. At uni studying the subject and enrichment activities such as these do actually benefit an animals’ physical and psychological state; there a loads of scientific papers proving it’s true for all sorts of animals.
When it’s all said and done, zoos couldn’t be zoos without visitors’ money and visitors want to see animals doing fun stuff. Big cats are the most popular animals and studies (Margulis et al, 2003) have show people are so much more interested when they can see the animals doing things. And imagine how much more you’d ~know about an animal if you realised how amazing it was at what it’s naturally built to do. Plus, activities like this engage people, especially children. And then if you (who’s had an awesome day with the tigers) then hears about how tigers dying in the wild then you’re probably more likely to sit up and take notice and maybe even help the cause.
Obviously something like this would need thoroughly following up and that’s the kinda thing that requires regulating. I know Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida does a similar thing and they’re part of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums which isn’t a free pass that says they’re good but they get regulated. Not so sure if that’s the case in China.