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Zoo Animals: 'What's for Dinner?'

Some of Beijing Zoo's animals are suffering menu changes because of the bird flu epidemic rampant in Asia.


Gone are the lions and tigers delectable "live" chicken dinners.


In, instead, are raw beef and mutton. Ummmmm, them's eats.


While carnivores go chicken-less, the zoo's birds are also receiving some special and, some would say, uncomfortable treatment these days. The peacocks in Shanghai Wild Animal Park and Beijing Badaling Safari Animal World, who used to be featured in a park and could strut around showing off their beautiful plumage, now are forced to stay in cages.


And turkeys at the Beijing Zoo -- believed to be particularly susceptible to the poultry virus -- have been moved out of their old home to quarters separate from visitors.


In more cases, display sections with birds have been closed for health reasons.


Yet a good thing about the temporary situation is that the zoos' birds living environments are being improved, with keepers keeping the display areas cleaner and not as crowded as before.


Almost all zoos have arranged more frequent cleaning and disinfection for birdcages, as well.


The Shanghai Wild Animal Park is even requiring every park visitor there to walk over disinfectant rugs and vehicles must be driven through a pool of disinfectant -- measures to prevent infection.


Zoos also have given vaccination to birds under their care.


In contrast, "poor" wild birds not only have lost protection from humans, but have been expelled from parks to find new places to roost.


Wild birds, usually migratory birds who liked to inhabit in zoos and parks at night, are now treated with due care.


"It is a measure in this special period of bird flu epidemic to prevent these wild birds from infecting the zoo birds," a Beijing Zoo written statement issued on Wednesday said.


The zoo reasons that crows it has been trying to get rid of may track in food from suburban garbage disposal areas.


"Crows are scavengers picking up contaminated food from garbage, which make them threats to our birds. They are very likely to carry virus and bacteria with them," the statement said.


Pigeons are also frowned upon.


In Beijing, many homing pigeon lovers use balconies of apartments to build cages to accommodate birds. Most neighbors are annoyed by these cages since they can create pigeon droppings and feathers.


To pacify residents' worries, the city's homing pigeon association is requiring all its members to stop letting pigeons out of their cages and keep cages clean during the epidemic period.


Still, pigeons and some other birds seem less lovely to people than before.


As one Chinese newspaper put it: "Doves, are you still angels?"


(China Daily February 9, 2004)

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