- It sounds ridiculous, but the fake wolf actually highlights Chinese zoos’ uncertain future.
Usually when you go into a zoo, you’d expect to see zebras, giraffes, lions, maybe bears… You know, more exotic animals that you won’t run into just every day.
But visitors to the Xiangwushan zoo in Xianning, the province of Hubei in China, were surprised when one of the zoo’s animals didn’t look quite right. In the wolf enclosure lounged a creature that was almost a wolf, but not really.
A user of the Chinese Weibo social media platform, going by the name of Mr. Xu, uploaded a video of his visit to Xiangwushan. As he approached the wolf cage, all he found was a large Rottweiler lounging on his side.
“Woof! Are you a wolf?” Mr. Xu asks the dog on the video, according to the BBC.
Mr. Xu told Beijing News that he asked the zoo stuff why on Earth they had a dog posing off as a wolf. The zoo keepers replied bluntly that they had no wolves to display.
According to them, their last wolf had “died of old age” some time back before Mr. Xu’s visit.
Couldn’t they have at least picked a more wolf-like dog?
Serving a Purpose
In all fairness, although the zookeepers didn’t explain the situation well to Mr. Xu, there was a reason why the Rottweiler was in the cage. According to the Chinese Global Times, the zoo told local media that they indeed used to have a wolf but it had unfortunately passed away.
The Rottweiler in the cage was in reality a trained guard dog. It had been placed in the cage to keep visitors from sneaking into the zoo through the empty enclosure without paying for a ticket.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that the zoo hadn’t removed the signs advertising their wolves, despite them no longer having any of the animals. According to local media, the Xianning Forest Bureau has requested zoo staff to remove the signs.
Jokes and Concerns
The official explanation hasn’t stopped Chinese internet users from making fun of the situation. Several comments left on the original video cracked jokes of the wolf enclosure’s resident, who is at best wolf-adjacent.
“I would rather see a husky,” one commenter said. At least a husky would’ve looked more wolf-like.
Another user thought that the dog was appropriate, at least purely in the terms of animal evolution.
“Relax, aren’t dogs and wolves related?” they quipped.
“The zoo should change to sign to ‘canine enclosure’ then they would be fine,” another comment echoed the sentiment.
Other users, however, expressed concerns about the state of China’s zoos and the animals housed in them. Global Times reported that many people had questioned just what is going on in the county’s zoos.
One of them suggested that poor management, lack of professional trained staff, and a desperate drive for profits was harming zoo animals. Some also went so far as to suggest that zoos in general should be completely phased out of the country.
Zoos on Life Support
Indeed, many zoos in China are struggling, partially because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Global Times quoted an official from the Xianning Forest Bureau who confirmed that all was not well.
The official said the Xiangwushan zoo was indeed suffering from a void of professional management and poor working conditions for the staff. If things didn’t soon get better, the whole zoo might be shut down, the official suggested.
It turns out that the zoo desperately needs the Rottweiler to keep unpaying visitors out. The same official told Shine.cn that although the zoo charged roughly $2.5 for entry, it didn’t have enough visitors. There simply isn’t enough money coming in to keep everything operating smoothly.
Xiangwushan isn’t the only Chinese zoo that is struggling. The popular Nanjing Hongshan Forest Zoo has stopped paying its employees so that they have money for the animals’ food, reported Global Times.
In 2020, the Nanjing zoo suffered a deficit of more than $4.5 million. An employee said that although the zoo receives public government funds to construct new facilities, its operational costs are covered entirely through ticket sales.
There’s a silver lining for this zoo, though. After the news of its plight went viral on the internet, many companies and individual people have contacted the zoo.
They are asking whether they could “adopt” some of the animals and pay for their expenses. Hopefully the animals won’t have to suffer from the zoos’ financial troubles, if only thanks to kindhearted animal-lovers’ donations.