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Friday, February 23, 2007

Chinese Zoos, Maybe Not So Safe

It seems that China may have a safety problem at its zoos. In an incredibly sad story, yesterday, a 6-year old girl, who had paid $2.00 to have her picture taken with a tiger, was eaten by said tiger when it was startled by the camera. After a little digging, an anonymous source* was able to find documentation of several other bizarre incidents at various Chinese zoos.

In October 2005, a zookeeper who was trying to collect bile from 6 bears was eaten alive. The bears were so angry that zoo workers had to wait 2 hours for the bears to calm down enough that they could enter the enclosure and retrieve the man's body. Interestingly enough bear bile fetches more cash per ounce than most narcotics and the extraction process is incredibly painful for the bear.

A mere 2 days after the "bear eats zookeeper" incident, another zookeeper, on his first day of work, accidentally wandered into a restricted lion enclosure where he was immediately attacked by 3 lions. Luckily, the man lived, but he is still recovering from his injuries.

It seems to me that zoos in China really need to lay down a few simple ground rules to protect their workers and patrons. For instance, maybe a program where you get your picture taken with a wild tiger, isn't a great idea. I would suggest pictures with a man dressed like a tiger or a tiger-like cardboard cut out. I also think that if you are going to "milk" the gall bladders of wild bears to sell their bile to be made into wines and shampoos, maybe an "animal sedation before bile extraction" procedure should be put into place. Finally, maybe a map of the wild animal park should be put into every new zookeeper orientation packet. You know, just a quick Xerox copy with "x" over the enclosures that are full of man-eating lions.

In all seriousness, our hearts go out to the families of the injured and deceased. It is sad to see tragedy stem from sheer stupidity. All you can hope is that somebody somewhere has learned something that will prevent any of these sorts of incidents from happening again. Sigh.

*Dave is the anonymous source we mention above.

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Anonymous reebs said...

Wasn't there also a drunk guy who jumped into a panda enclosure in China? How is it that the country that created the Great Wall has no zoo fencing?

4:03 PM

Blogger Daisy Hardbottle said...

I only hope they don't enforce the GTB restrictions until after the next presidential visit.

p.s. how unbelievebly sad and stupid that incidents like these are repeating

4:06 PM

Blogger Daisy Hardbottle said...

Well said Reebs!

4:08 PM

Anonymous forhecancreep said...

Not to subject my beloved state to ridicule, but "get your picture taken with the tiger" is not limited to China, it is also a yearly occurrence at the North Carolina Renaissance Festival. For five dollar you can pet it and for ten you get a picture. They dope up the poor thing like crazy; I doubt it can tell when the camera is going off.

4:30 PM

Anonymous Jono said...

It's only by the grace of God that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often here in the Good 'ole US of A. I interned at the Baltimore Zoo one summer. The entirety of all Workplace Safety discussions were encapsulated by:

1) Do as I say, not as I do; and

2) Stay behind that yellow line or the monkeys will "get" you.

To be fair, though, that Bear mauling story doesn't sound like it happened in a zoo. It sounds like it happened to some guy who made his living off of a bizarre bear sweatshop (bileshop?) in his backyard. I know they do things differently in China, but I can't see a zoo officially cashing in on the kind of animal products trade that presumably imperils their native species in the first place.

4:48 PM

Blogger scooterlulu said...

Jono, you are correct. The bear eats keeper story DID happen at a bear farm where bears were kept for the specific purpose of harvesting their parts. I guess I shouldn't really lump tht with the "zoos".

I worked at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. They were bigger on safety. Our lesson was "If you drop something into the shark tank, just let it go. Whatever it is, just let it go."-Lulu

5:03 PM


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