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January 20, 2012

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Park animals to get New Year feast

WHILE animals living in local zoos will spend a happy Chinese New Year, stray cats and dogs face a hard and cold time. But volunteers are trying their best to change the situation for the better.

Animals living at Shanghai Wildlife Park will be given a sumptuous dinner on New Year's Eve, officials said.

The dinner will include all of the animals' favorite foods - bamboo leaves for pandas, beef and mutton for carnivores, and fish for sea lions.

Park officials said baby animals will also receive special food on Chinese New Year's Eve. Newborn tiger and lion cubs will taste meat for the first time for the Spring Festival. The meat will be cut into small pieces since their teeth are still delicate.

Some foods such as onion and garlic will also be added to the meal to help them endure the chilly weather, park officials said.

Shanghai Zoo officials said they will not give a special dinner to the animals for Chinese New Year, but added that they change the diet of the animals to meet seasonal changes.

Nonetheless, the zoo will hold some activities to mark Chinese New Year. A photography contest is being held to mark the Year of the Dragon.

The pictures submitted should contain at least five of the following animals: camel, rabbit, snake, fish, eagle, tiger and ox. Mythical dragons have parts of all these animals. Alligators and iguanas, which have the word dragon in their Chinese names, are also acceptable.

Photos can be submitted between January 23 to 28 on the zoo's microblog. The first 50 people to submit photos will receive a ticket to the zoo.

Meanwhile, animal welfare volunteers are scratching their heads because they have to leave thousands of stray dogs and cats in their shelters unattended during the holiday.

The Beijing-based China Small Animal Protection Association and Sichuan-based Animal Protection Center are now recruiting volunteers online to face the "tough days," as a lack of workers and pet food are threatening the lives of over 2,000 stray dogs and cats they have adopted.

"Many of our volunteers are going back to their hometowns for the Spring Festival," said an official surnamed Jiang with the association, "But unlike a business, we cannot simply shut down the shelter because the animals have to be cared for."

The association is using its microblog to recruit at least five volunteers to work shifts to take care of the 1,000-plus animals in its shelter.

Jiang said many people have volunteered to spend some time during the holiday to take care of the dogs and cats or donate pet food. Some of the volunteers are students, Jiang added.

Meanwhile, pet hospitals in Shanghai are preparing for their busiest days of the year, taking care of cats and dogs belonging to owners who will be away during the Spring Festival.

"It will look like a zoo here during the Spring Festival," said Wu Ping, manager of a pet hospital on Qilianshan Road South in Putuo District.

Wu said almost all the cages at the facility will be full during the holiday.

"It's a challenge as many staff members have to look after several pets at the same time," Wu said. "We will work overtime during the festival."

Wu has raised fees for keeping pets from 30 yuan (US$4.74) a day to 80 yuan, but that hasn't deterred customers.

New private pet-care businesses have also emerged with families offering to care for pets in their apartments.

Sun Yihui, a restaurant worker from Jiangsu Province, said she would take care of a pet at her home during the festival for 30 yuan a day.

Animal protection organizations warn that pet owners should sign detailed contracts with such private pet-care providers to protect themselves in case an animal gets sick, injured or killed.Shanghai zoo warns about the dangers of over feeding

Shanghai Zoo officials are once again reminding people not to feed the animals.

Recently the zoo published a picture of a hyena with a plastic bag in its stomach on its microblog. After treatment, the hyena vomited a small package of preservative, but was otherwise OK.

Xia Juxing, an official with the zoo, said the hyena, named Zhuang Zhuang, had a bad appetite and seemed "depressed," which made zoo officials think he had eaten something strange.

Zoo officials said the package was very likely fed to the animal by visitors. Although the zoo has "no feeding" signs on all cages and enclosures, some people still throw snacks and fruits into cages.

This is unnecessary and dangerous as the zoo feeds the animals what they need, and over feeding will give animals indigestion.

Yu Jianyi, a veterinarian at the zoo, said they often reduce the amount of food animals are given on weekends, when attendance is higher, so that they won't suffer indigestion.

In 1993, a giraffe named Hai Bin died after eating plastic bags fed to it by visitors. To warn visitors of the danger, the zoo turned Hai Bin into a specimen. The specimen is in the zoo and features a large label telling visitors what happened.

Yet people don't heed the warning.


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