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April 16, 2019

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Zookeeper plea is food for thought

Shanghai Zoo is urging visitors to stop feeding animals, saying that swans, wild geese, bears and tortoises are suffering health problems as a result.

Visitor numbers have been rising with the spring weather, along with an increase in the number of animals with intestinal obstruction and digestion problems, the zoo said.

The zoo is taking a number of measures including enhanced patrols, more signs and more leaflets.

It is also organizing activities to drive home the message that unnecessary feeding is not welcome.

Swans, wild geese and ducks are particularly vulnerable, said keeper Zhang Zhihao.

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

“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.”

Geng Guangyao, another keeper, said: “Herbivorous animals never resist any food, and they even eat plastic bags, which seriously damages their health.

“They cannot discharge these items, and suffer from intestinal obstruction as a result.”

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

Keeper Li Qing said amphibians and reptiles face less of a threat from feeding, but a sulcata tortoise at the zoo had suffered damage to its digestive system after eating the plastic label of a water bottle.

Plastic paper and plastic pieces were found in its excrement after animal keepers fed the tortoise grass to stimulate its digestive system.

“Feeding from tourists will also lead to nutritional imbalance in the animals, who will not eat food from animal keepers after taking tourists’ food, thus affecting their healthy growth and reproduction,” said Zhu Yingdi, another keeper at the zoo.

“Obesity and diabetes are some other health problems as most foods from tourists contain high amounts of sugar or starch,” she said. “Animals may also suffer from diseases such as diarrhea, colds or hepatitis. They will also fight for food, which causes injuries.”


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