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Zoo stops selling animal feed

WENZHOU Zoo in Zhejiang Province stopped its visitor feeding business this month after it was claimed the animals were overfed and some had died of indigestion.

Zoo officials denied the claim.

Earlier, a netizen identified as 789yang claimed to be a staff member of the zoo and wrote on an online message board that the zoo rented booths to vendors, who sold feed to visitors. Visitors fed animals so much that several died of indigestion.

The netizen said a brown bear, six seals and numerous monkeys died of indigestion since the zoo opened in 2002. The feed sold at the booths was provided by the zoo and included carrots, apples, fish and pumpkin. After the zoo closed in the evening, vets would give animals a digestive, he said.

The netizen also said the zoo once issued a document stating the feed quantity sold during holidays should increase to make more money. The document also said animal carers should reduce normal feeding during holidays so that animals can have more food from visitors.

According to 789yang, a giraffe named Xiao Bao died on October 3, 2004, while a brown bear named Ben Ben died on January 2.

"Zoo officials said it's alright if animals die and everything's going to be fine as long as animals don't escape," he said in his post.

The zoo, however, denied parts of 789yang's post. Officials told reporters from China News Service that they did set up booths to sell feed to visitors, but it was because they found visitors fed the animals with their own food or even other stuff such as plastic bags. Therefore, officials said it would be safer for the animals if the zoo sold proper feed to visitors.

"In fact the vendors are our carers, who are professional and well-trained," Guo Jianhua, a zoo official, told China News Service.

Vendors and the zoo split the money from the feed sales, he added.

Officials, however, emphasized that only one animal died due to over feeding.

The record provided by the zoo showed that Xiao Bao died of suffocation when he inhaled fodder by accident; Ben Ben died of a stomach hemorrhage while waiting to deliver cubs. Four seals died at the zoo, but none of them died from digestive system diseases, Guo was cited as saying.

But officials did admit a macaque died of over feeding in 2007. On the macaque's dissection report, vets wrote the bird was found with an extremely distended stomach. In the report, vets also said the cause of death was "over feeding during the holiday." Officials stressed that this was the only death caused by visitors' feeding.

Zoo officials said all the booths selling food were removed on May 3 because they received complaints that "the vendors were rude to visitors."

In 2004, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a regulation saying that no zoo can set up booths to sell feed or other stuff to visitors.

The Shanghai Zoo said it strictly bans visitors from feeding animals and thus, they do not sell feed to visitors. An official added that allowing visitors to feed animals is really dangerous because most are not aware of how much they should eat everyday.

"We have signs saying 'no feeding' on the cages," said Wang Aishan, an official with the zoo. "And we have officials and volunteers who dissuade people from feeding the animals. We know visitors don't mean to harm the animals, but they may kill them without realizing it if they keep feeding them."

Shanghai Zoo learned its lesson in 1993. At that time, a 15-year-old giraffe named Hai Bin, died at the zoo. She had just given birth to a cub 28 days before she died. The dissection showed her stomach was filled with plastic bags given to it by visitors.

Later Hai Bin was stuffed and put on display at the zoo, reminding people not to feed the animals.


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