Zoos bring the thrill of being able to observe wild, exotic animals up close that we normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to see. For young and old alike, seeing one’s favorite animal just a few meters away can be a magical experience, but sadly for the animal involved, the experience may not be a happy one.

With news like the deer who died from plastic consumption and the lonely “headbanging” bear, it seems that recently there are an increasing number of sad stories coming from zoos. Unfortunately we have yet another to add to the list, as photographs of a couple of Beijing Zoo’s big cats surfaced on the internet this past week that beg the question of how well these animals are being taken care of.

On the 22nd of October, a photo surfaced on Weibo, essentially China’s version of Twitter, of a lion from the Beijing Zoo that raised a lot of concern over the health of the animal. The lion, standing alone in a rather barren enclosure, looked to be nothing but skin and bones, far skinnier than any healthy lion should be. The photo was uploaded by an apparent animal activist, who in addition uploaded another photo of a tiger from the same zoo who also appeared rather thin. “Are these animals being fed enough, or are they ill?” the uploader wondered.



Images: Weibo via Toychan Net

The emaciated appearance of these animals is without a doubt concerning. Even those without any veterinary background can recognize that something is not quite right with these big cats, the lion in particular. However, in a statement from the Beijing Zoo regarding the photos, the zoo assured the public that “the lion in question has always been thin” and that there is “no correlation between an animal’s physique and their health.” However, the zoo has also remarked that “the type of food, as well as the amount, will be evaluated and adjusted accordingly.”

The zoo has nutrition specialists who manage each animal’s diet; the lion is reportedly fed 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of beef and 1.5 kilograms of lamb Monday through Wednesday, 4 kilograms of beef hearts and 3.5 kilograms of beef liver on Friday, and either 14 live rabbits or 12 live chickens on Saturday. Thursdays and Sundays are designated fasting days, to help mimic the eating style of lions in the wild.

▼ Healthy lions in their natural habitat


Image: Wikipedia/ Robur.q

While it seems the lion has a carefully thought-out menu, it’s difficult to believe that a big cat that thin is without any health issues. Male lions average about 150 kilograms in weight (approximately 330 pounds), but the lion in question is only a fraction of that, at an emaciated 90 kilograms. According to the Beijing Zoo, though, he was already that thin when they received him from the Harbin Zoo in 2008, and changes to his diet reportedly did not help him to gain weight. The Beijing Zoo also pointed out that due to the low numbers of white lions in existence they are often crossbred, leading to hereditary deformities.

Still, that the lion is currently not on view to the public as he is “under veterinary examination due to unsatisfactory health” is more than a little disconcerting, but hopefully this means that whatever issues there may be will be taken care of.

There are a lot of conflicting views when it comes to zoos. There is the one side that believes that wild animals are not made for mankind’s entertainment, and simply do not belong in captivity. There is another side, though, that would argue that some zoos help with conservation efforts, bring awareness of animal issues to the public, and also that having close, personal contact with the animals gives people more of an appreciation for them, making them more willing to support efforts to protect them.

Whichever side you take, I think we can all agree that we need to give better treatment to the animals we share our planet with. If you’re wanting to know how to make things better for our animal friends in captivity it can be difficult to know where to start, but contacting like-minded individuals through local animal welfare groups and reaching out to your legislators is a good first step.

Source: Toychan Net, Yahoo! Japan News
Top image: Weibo via Toychan Net (edited by RocketNews24)