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April 23, 2019

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Zoo brings native animals home to city

A display area featuring animals once indigenous to Shanghai and East China opened at the Shanghai Zoo in Changning District yesterday.

The zoo’s former small mammal and leopard area has been renovated and expanded to a 30,000-square-meter section featuring more than 20 species, including Oriental white storks, otters, leopard cats, river deer, hog badgers, raccoon dogs and mallards.

The creatures all once lived in Shanghai and neighboring areas or still make the area their home, the zoo said.

“Some animals once spotted in Shanghai have seen a significant decrease in population or have disappeared from the city,” said Pei Enle, director of Shanghai Zoo.

“The display aims to introduce people to these animals, their diversity, their living conditions and the challenges they face, and raise people’s awareness of animal and environmental protection.”

Otters were once widely seen in Shanghai, but are almost gone based on the zoo’s research in 2015, while river deer were last seen in the city last century in suburban Fengxian District, said Pei.

The environment of the Shanghai Zoo area simulates the city’s wetlands, hills and dense forests.

“We wanted to recreate a natural habitat for them so that visitors will feel like they are walking into these animals’ homes,” said He Xiangyu, who designed the new area.

Lakes, brooks, islands and sandbars provide a natural habitat for birds and rocks, and branches have been arranged on islands to attract wild birds as well.

Porcupines, red foxes and river deer are also living in the new area.

“Porcupines are covered with quills and the quills will stand up when the animal is nervous. They mainly eat plants and vegetables,” said keeper Sun Wenting.

“Red foxes are smart and are good at strategy.

“They will track prey to its den, and they even eat rotten meat in tough conditions.”

River deer, which favor wetlands, were seen in Shanghai as early as in the Neolithic period. In the late 19th century, they were common in Qingpu and Fengxian districts, according to the zoo.

However, changes to the natural environment and human activity made the animal virtually extinct in Shanghai in the 20th century, the zoo said.

The city began to reintroduce the animal in 2006 and their population is steadily growing.

He said the zoo is trying to create an immersive experience for visitors.

For example, the otter area has been divided into three sections, allowing visitors to observe the animals on land and see them playing in water and swimming underwater.

An observation platform, bridge and boardwalk inside the area also helps visitors get a close look at the animals, said He, the area’s designer.

Guided tours will be arranged, and educational films will be screened, allowing visitors to learn more about these animals, the zoo added.


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