[This is a graphic story. Sensitive readers would do well to click here.]
In 2017, a gruesome video from China’s Yancheng Safari Park, located just outside Shanghai, went viral. It was reportedly captured by horrified onlookers and shows two men dumping a live donkey into the tiger pit.
Mind you, this is not how tigers are fed and this is no story about the survival of the fittest. It’s basic animal cruelty and a blatant disregard for life.
In the video, a group of men pull up to the tiger enclosure – which is located beneath visitors for their protection – and push in the terrified donkey.
Of course, the donkey had no idea what was about to happen, but we think it’s safe to assume it hadn’t been treated well up to this point and didn’t have high hopes for its future.
We’ll spare you all the details, but it’s a very sad video to watch and the Chinese newspaper the South China Morning Post reported that the footage captured merely shows the first moments of the attack.
It allegedly took the donkey about half an hour to die while being mauled. That’s probably because zoo tigers aren’t typically fed live animals and are not efficient predators. An expert interviewed by National Geographic suggested that the tigers simply didn’t know what to do with the donkey.
Witnesses – which included young children – said the men also tried to throw in a goat but they were stopped by angry and no-doubt traumatized visitors who were, after all, there to appreciate wildlife.
The crime was orchestrated by zoo shareholders who were upset with the facility’s owner and wanted to punish him.
A zoo official released a statement (in Chinese) explaining that the shareholders were involved in a lawsuit against the zoo’s owner. They alleged that they’d received no financial returns after investing in the project. During the lawsuit, the zoo’s assets were frozen by the courts and could not be sold to pay debts.
In retaliation for the lack of profit, the investors arranged for a group of men to steal some of the zoo’s animals in order to sell them, but when they were stopped by security, they decided to push the animals into the tiger moat instead.
The Guardian reported that one of the shareholders in question told the local press:
“Since we can’t have any benefits, we thought why not feed them to the tigers, at least we can save on animal feed.”
While the Western press has used the story to highlight the cruelty in some Chinese zoos, it’s important to note that this behavior takes place around the world. In fact, our desire to see wild animals up close contributes to this maltreatment. A study from Oxford University estimated “that between 230,000 and 550,000 animals around the world are being held in attractions that negatively affect their welfare.”
Of course, not all of them are subjected to the kind of abuse in this story.
The fact that the event took place in 2017 and is reemerging online is perhaps a testament to just how callous we’ve all become about watching violence. Psychologists have long been concerned about the link between animal cruelty and violence towards humans. There are fears that witnessing or otherwise becoming desensitized to violence towards animals can lead to other mental health issues as well as “more serious” crimes towards humans.
We might all benefit from asking ourselves why we click on stories of animal brutality or watch the types of videos described here, especially if we don’t intend to take productive action afterward.
As of 2019, there is no update (at least in English) on punishments resulting from this incident, though that same year the zoo erected a statue of the donkey titled “A Donkey’s Monument.” It bears an inscription telling the terrible story of how the animal died.
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