The ongoing animal "Olympics" at Shanghai Wildlife Park has come under fire over criticism from animal protection organizations, which describes the games as "animal abuse."
An elephant named Yanu lit the "Olympic" flame by stamping a pedal during the "opening ceremony" on Sunday.[Photo/xinmin.cn]
"The so-called 'animal Olympics' mistreats animals, which is against their natural behavior and hurts their health," said Dr Sun Quanhui with the China office of World Society for the Protection of Animals, an international non-profit animal welfare organization.
The animal "Olympic Games," which opened on Sunday, features more than 40 sports. Hundreds of animals from across the world will participate. It will run until late November.
There will be bear and gorilla "balance beam" competitions, dog and bear "hurdle races," bear "bicycle races," monkey pole climbing, bear and monkey rope-skipping and an elephant "basketball match."
An elephant named Yanu lit the "Olympic" flame by stamping a pedal during the "opening ceremony" on Sunday.
Sun said such activities usually involve punitive measures during training such as withholding food, and many animals die or suffer from injuries due to training, which can last up to a year.
"They want to attract an audience and amuse people, but it shows a lot of disrespect for creatures," Sun said, suggesting parents not bring kids to watch the games.
While some people enjoy the games, others say it's cruel.
"How poor these animals are!" said a netizen on microblog.
The park insisted they do not harm the animals.
"It is healthy sport as animals participate in the games based on their nature, like a cheetah race as they are known for their fast speed, and we use food as a reward," said Ni Li, a park press official.
A State Forestry Administration regulation makes it illegal as of last year to use animals in performances in zoos. But it does not stop other animal-related activities.
Sun said the regulation only targets zoos under the management of the administration.
In terms of animal protection, there is still a legal vacuum in China, Sun said.
Yan Jingjing, a senior official with Shanghai Wildlife Conservation Station, was unavailable for comment. The station is responsible for protecting wildlife.
In 2006, the wildlife park also held an animal games.
The event was suspended for several years after protests, including from abroad. It held a similar event last year.