Animal rights activists are on high alert following performances at a Chinese zoo that have elephants showing off handstands and “martial arts” stunts that they say are causing “physical and mental harm” to the animals.
Xinhua reports that the Tianjin Zoo introduced two Asian elephants from Shenzhen on May 21 to perform the stunts, which involves the massive elephants walking on “plum blossom stakes” and dangerously crossing a single-plank bridge.
Visitors cough up 10 yuan to enter and another 60 yuan to take photographs with the elephants during the show that runs five times per day for 20 minutes each, with extra rounds on the weekends.
“Stunts like handstands, sitting and kneeling are unnatural for elephants and will cause serious physical and mental harms,” said Hu Chunmei with the Nature University, citing her consultation with zoologists and vets.
The show also poses safety risks to the audience, as Hu said the elephants might run into rampage when forced into such stressful shows under scorching weather, while the zoo had not put in place sufficient protective measures.
The townscape planning of authority overseeing the zoo said that it was merely “behavioral training demonstration” meant to ‘promote knowledge among the public’.
“We have not employed beating or abuse in the process, and the activity is not profit-driven,” it added.
The performance seems to bear about as much educational merit as the monkeys-dressed-as-nurses-riding-bikes display at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park and possibly the human vs. tiger tug-of-war games hosted at the Changsha Ecological Zoo in Hunan.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has ordered twice, in 2010 and 2013, to end all types of animal performance, although the ban has been conveniently flouted ever since.
Most untrained humans, never mind five-ton elephants, have no such business trying to pull off such stunts. We’re just glad we won’t be around when the inevitable elephant zoo-break ensues.