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April 19, 2021

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Zoo warns against feeding frenzy

The Shanghai Zoo held a promotion yesterday to raise awareness of the problems posed by visitors feeding its animals.

With the warmer spring weather, more people are visiting the zoo, and there has been a  rise in the number of animals with intestinal obstructions and digestion problems.

The zoo is taking measures such as enhanced patrols, more signs and more leaflets. It is also organizing activities to spread the message that feeding by visitors is not welcome.

There is still a long way to go to make tourists fully aware of the potential hazards of feeding and eliminate such acts, the zoo said.

Zhang Jiawei, an animal keeper of primates, said the feeding threatens animals’ health. “Some animals have suffered from diarrhea due to feeding, and Tai Sen, an orangutan, in his 40s, now has diabetes because of feeding.”

“He never resisted against any food from visitors and now he suffers from hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol as a result. Every week, he has his blood sugar tested to ensure he is healthy,” Zhang said

“When animals are fed for a long time by visitors, they will also refuse food balanced in nutrition prepared by the zoo.

“I once found Fa Fa, a monkey, curled up in a corner alone, and realized there was something wrong. I found his finger was hurt and there was a knife inside the cage which was dumped by a tourist.

“It took three months for Fa Fa to recover.”

Serious feeding from visitors was observed by Yang Junjie, a keeper of sun bear, a first-class national protected animal.

“I see visitors feeding sun bears various types of food such as ham, vegetables and fruits every day,” said Yang.

“These even include tablets and bamboo sticks. I use trumpets calling them to stop such acts, but some just turn a deaf ear. Once, a sun bear vomited after having ice tea from visitors, who ran away when I tried to educate them. Another time, a senior dropped a handful of tablets. I cleared them immediately, preventing serious risks. Swans, wild geese and ducks are particularly vulnerable,” said their keeper Zhang Zhihao.

“Many tourists bring bread and biscuits to attract swans, wild geese and ducks at the water platform, but they never eat these in the wild,” he said.

“They eat leaves, seeds, sprouts and stems, and sometimes molluscs and aquatic insects. Bread and biscuits are high-calorie carbohydrates, which will lead to indigestion in birds.”

Another keeper, Geng Guangyao, said: “Herbivorous animals never resist any food, and they even eat plastic bags, which seriously damages their health. Being unable to discharge these items, they suffer from intestinal obstruction.”

Yang Huiqiang, a keeper at the bear enclosure, said: “Feeding will trigger food begging, which in turn leads to more feeding as a result, creating a vicious circle.”

Compared with animals in open areas, amphibians and reptiles, however, face less of a threat from feeding.


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