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May 13, 2015

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City’s parks tormented by ‘nature vandals’

SHANGHAI Chenshan Botanical Garden is enhancing park patrols and adding volunteer monitors to address a growing problem of nature vandalism.

Among recent incidents are Chinese characters carved onto the giant leaves of aloe and American century plants.

The garden isn’t the only park in Shanghai suffering from public abuse. Other popular sites report problems arising from people who don’t seem to respect the native environment.

In Chenshan Garden, some of the vandalized plants are struggling to survive.

“We feel very sad seeing the conditions of these plants, some of which are a meter tall and have taken several decades to reach that height,” said Zhang Zhe, an official at the Songjiang District garden, a major tourist site in the city.

“Some of these vandals are students behaving in a herd-like mentality. They see other people have desecrated plants and so they do the same thing,” she said.

There have been more than 40 plants vandalized since the May Day holiday, when the garden hosted more than 50,000 visitors.

Zhang said some peonies in the garden have been stomped on, and some blue spikemoss were pulled out by the roots. Some sculptures and information boards at the park have been damaged and plants stolen.

“The only thing we can do is to enhance patrols and add to the number of volunteers keeping watch in the park, but we don’t have enough staff to monitor everything, so we need to urge visitors to show more respect for the garden flora,” Zhang said.

Wu Zhixing, an agronomist, said it will be difficult to save plants if their leaves are damaged.

“The fresh and tender texture of plants is hurt, and their nutrient delivery is damaged,” Wu said.

Chenshan is not the only popular visitor site in Shanghai suffering from vandalism.

The Natural History Museum reported last weekend that a starfish died after visitors lifted it from an exhibit and the toe of a mock komodo dragon was broken off.

Shanghai Zoo has called on visitors to be more careful on their behavior, too. The appeal has largely fallen on deaf ears.

“Some people hang onto or knock down trees while doing their morning exercises in the park,” said Pan Xiuwen, a zoo official.

“Some break the rules by feeding animals or knocking on the glass enclosures, which scares the animals.”’

The zoo doesn’t have enough staff to police its grounds.

”We have to depend on good public behavior,” she said.

Chenshan Garden is hosting a music festival this weekend, which will require extra maintenance work because so many people throw so much garbage around on the grounds.

Meanwhile, Century Park said it spends about 4.5 million yuan (US$725,000) on lawn upkeep because of people pitching tents on the grounds and killing the grass by walking all over it.

It’s hard for parks that have long allowed people so much access to suddenly change rules and restrict harmful practices.

Gongqing Forest Park in the Yangpu District said some of its lawns turned to dirt after May Day crowds trampled them.


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