"Irregular" Zoo

  China News Weekly reporter/Du Wei

  Issued in the 994th issue of China News Weekly on May 5, 2021

  At the end of 2018, I spent 4 months in the flower eclipse that I loved animals since I was a child. I visited 56 zoos in 41 cities in China, and compiled my observations and feelings along the way into the book "Going to the Zoo is a Serious Thing", in 2021 Published in January

In the book, the 32-year-old zoo fanatic said that a good zoo is a good zoo that can keep the animals well. He "spits out" the various deficiencies of domestic zoo facilities and breeding, and tells the public how to visit the zoo.

  Zhang Enquan, a zoo designer and technician of the Beijing Zoo breeding team, wrote in the preface to the book: Visiting a zoo is a serious business, but unfortunately, there are too many non-decent zoos.

In the book "Illustrated Zoo Design" edited by Zhang Enquan and others, it is mentioned that in the past 20 years, many zoos have been built on the land of China, and the overall level has not improved, but has declined.

The inland zoos failed to realize the transformation from traditional zoos to modern zoos, which is in contrast with the rapid development of the international zoo industry.

Design's Achilles' heel

  In the national zoo tour more than two years ago, Taiyuan Zoo was the only place where the flower eclipse could not take place. At that time, it was worth the Taiyuan Zoo’s closure and renovation. The total investment is expected to reach 3.034 billion yuan. The area of ​​the park has nearly doubled to 2000. More than acres.

Before the National Day last year, Taiyuan Zoo opened its doors to welcome guests. In March of this year, Hua Eclipse visited this heavily-built zoo.

He found that most of the animal venues are surprisingly large, giving the animals ample space for activities.

The indoor sports field of the Hippopotamus is larger than the outdoor sports fields of many zoos. The Elephant Hall is the largest single building in the park, covering an area of ​​more than 7,000 square meters. Natural light can be poured into the room through the glass dome.

Many buildings in the park also refer to the architectural shape of the European Zoo.

  But the problem with Taiyuan Zoo is that, in addition to the outer shell, the design of many venues is extremely bad.

Huazha explained that in the Elephant Pavilion at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, the elephants have their feet on the ground, and there are sand piles in the exhibition area for them to play.

In Taiyuan Zoo, which imitated the Elephant House of Copenhagen Zoo, elephants step on the hard concrete floor every day. The empty exhibition room is surrounded by only reinforced concrete pillars. The "environment is too monotonous".

In the northern winter, elephants must spend their time indoors, and they need to be equipped with tickling toys and training devices to enrich their lives. Otherwise, the venue is "just a large enough prison."

  The designers of the zoo do not understand animals and zoos, and do not consider the activities and characteristics of animals, and the management and care of animals by the keepers. This is firstly related to the history of domestic zoos.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, a number of large-scale parks were built in major cities across the country. Many of these parks opened up an area for raising and displaying wild animals. After that, they moved out to become independent zoos, and some cities also set up separate zoos.

By the end of 1983, a total of 135 zoos or comprehensive parks with a certain scale of animal exhibition areas had been built across the country.

The competent departments of these zoos are the construction administrative departments and landscape bureaus of various places, and their nature is defined as specialized parks. Most of their management and construction will follow the path of the park.

In recent years, the directors of zoos in various places have rarely graduated from zoology-related disciplines. Therefore, more funds will be invested in landscaping and road restoration, and they will pay less attention to animal welfare.

The total green landscape area of ​​Taiyuan Zoo amounts to 702,000 square meters, which is more than half of the entire zoo area.

  At the same time, domestic zoo design professionals are scarce. Due to the difficulty of business volume to support development, there is no domestic architectural design agency dedicated to zoo design.

At present, the vast majority of zoo design plans originate from garden design institutes. “They can only design the park very well.” Huazha said.

In foreign countries, relevant practitioners devote themselves to zoo design in a more flexible way, such as setting up studios and having the opportunity to participate in multiple projects at the same time, and they have been able to accumulate and accumulate continuously.

The winning bidder for the Taiyuan Zoo's renovation and upgrading project is Shanghai Landscape (Group) Co., Ltd.

A senior person in the zoo industry who did not want to be named pointed out that this design is like going to various zoos in Europe and copying their shells.

  In recent years, the head of Nanjing Hongshan Zoo's garden construction, Ma Ke, is the head of the design team of the China Zoo Association. He has led and participated in the renovation of many venues in the Hongshan Park, such as the Asian Primate Hall, Wolf Hall, and Chinese Cat Museum.

Marco said that although there are zoo design teams abroad, and some countries such as the United Kingdom also offer related majors, zoo design is a niche industry after all. In the world, a good design depends to a greater extent on the zoo itself, and the zoo needs its own personnel. Grow and actively participate in design.

  In Marco's observation, compared with foreign countries, the utilization rate of domestic zoo space is not high.

Moreover, many zoos used to build venues on flat ground, and did not use the terrain, but left flat ground and more areas for tourists.

The venues are far apart, and tourists walk around the various sightseeing spots.

Foreign zoos will leave space for animals as much as possible, "only necessary passages are reserved for tourists, and there are animal playgrounds on both sides of the road."

Because there is no mature design system, domestic zoos look very similar, "many of them are small, old, and traditional cages."

  From the perspective of Flower Eclipse, bigness is not an essential element of a zoo.

A large part of the investment in the renovation of Taiyuan Zoo was actually used for land acquisition, and the remaining part was used for venue construction.

Flower Eclipse has been to London Zoo and Moscow Zoo, covering an area of ​​15 hectares and 21.5 hectares respectively, which are only 1/9 and 1/6 of the area of ​​Taiyuan Zoo. However, due to the high display density and abundant animal behaviors, it makes people seem to fall away. Entering the black hole of time, you can't finish shopping no matter how you look at it.

The London Zoo has abandoned the elephant display, but the unusually complex climbing frame and the right vegetation in the King Kong orangutan shelter demonstrate the British talent for gardening.

This exhibition area is accompanied by small African animals such as white-headed white-browed monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys.

The rainforest animal area of ​​the London Zoo is a huge indoor greenhouse with climbing frames and tropical plants three stories high. Small primates such as golden lion tamarins are on the heights, and large birds such as phoenix crested pheasants are on the lower floor, making full use of the space.

  The dynamic process of enriching the animal's cage and enriching its life content so that the animals maintain physical and mental health is called enrichment.

In 1907, in Hamburg, Germany, the animal merchant and circus owner Hagenbeck, who inherited his father’s business, created a "panoramic" zoo, which puts animals in a more open and complex artificial environment that resembles the natural environment. This is for the future Lay the foundation for the zoo display design

Beginning in the 1920s, zookeepers in European and American zoos began to experiment with enrichment.

By the 1980s, Western countries had established a relationship between animals and ecological elements in zoo cages.

In mainland China, Feng Rong was not transformed into practice in some zoos until around 2010.

Unstoppable feeding and animal show

  More than ten years ago, while studying biology at China University of Geosciences, Huazha went to Wuhan Zoo for an internship and saw two white bears in Xiongshan.

The two bears each looked for a corner, facing the tourists, shaking their heads frantically.

Flicking one head from side to side, the big head is rubbed on the railing, and the other head is flipped up and down, two paws rubbing frantically between the legs.

This is the first time Huasha knows about stereotyped behavior, which is often caused by the monotonous environment in which animals live.

In February of this year, the video of an elephant in the Elephant Museum of Taiyuan Zoo leaning back against the wall, shaking its head and nose to and fro, caused heated debate. The garden responded that this is exactly the stereotyped behavior of elephants, that is, the animal repeats a certain action boringly.

  In domestic zoos, another common unnatural behavior of animals is begging for food.

Huazha said that this is related to the unique feeding habits of the domestic people, and the formation of feeding habits is inseparable from the pit-style venues.

The design of the pit-style stadium is to facilitate the control of animals and prevent them from running out.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, this display method that was prevailing around the world was introduced into China through the Soviet Union.

The pit design gives tourists the geographical advantage of feeding, and the single viewing angle of the surrounding perspective stimulates the tourists' impulse to feed.

With the continuous evolution of the design of zoos and venues around the world and the promotion of public concepts, by the 1990s, the phenomenon of feeding in foreign zoos gradually disappeared.

However, in China, the advancement of the two is relatively slow, and the feeding phenomenon continues.

  There is also a huge driving force from the market that makes the feeding "a long-standing" factor.

At the end of the 20th century, with the vigorous development of the real estate industry, many zoos or animal corners located in the center of the city moved to the outskirts tens of kilometers away from the city. They were transformed into a safari zoo in name, and the competent authority became the State Forestry Administration.

Some of the zoos were restructured, and public institutions were transformed into private zoos or operated as enterprises.

In order to cater to market demand, these zoos will encourage more money to feed.

  "I don't think there should be a feeding area in the zoo," Huaxiu said. "This will make visitors think that the zoo can be fed, and it is difficult to limit the feeding to the livestock area in the end." Children at the Central Park Zoo in New York, USA In the zoo, visitors can also feed animals such as lambs, rabbits, ponies and other animals that can eat small amounts for a long time, but only within a certain period of time.

The most important thing is that the Children’s Zoo is separated from the Central Park Zoo in different areas. Feeding is strictly prohibited in the Central Park Zoo, which will allow visitors to clearly know the limits of feeding.

  What makes the flower eclipse even more disturbing is the animal performances carried out in zoos in various places. Such performances are essentially more of a circus.

The "National Zoo Development Outline" promulgated in 2013 proposed to eliminate all kinds of animal performances.

But since then, zoos everywhere have put on circus performances as "animal behavior display" vests.

Public attention spurs improvements in the zoo

  For more than 20 years after the reform and opening up, China's zoo industry has been relatively closed for communication with foreign counterparts.

Bai Yali is the Minister of Publicity and Education of Hongshan Zoo. After graduating from university in 2000, she came to the zoo for the stability of public institutions.

At first, I lived in the office every day of "talking and eating melon seeds", working in a stagnant water, "no one asks and guides you what to do."

Until 2006, when the China Zoo Association and the American Zoo Association carried out exchanges and visits, and the Atlanta Zoo organized animal protection education and training in China, Bai Yali was exposed to advanced foreign concepts for the first time.

  At the end of 2008, Shen Zhijun went to the Hongshan Zoo as the head of the zoo. He began to lead the whole garden to renovate the venues and develop enrichment.

As a public institution, the zoo has to absorb and absorb social personnel for a long period of time.

But for a zoo that wants to transform from traditional to modern, the lack of knowledge and cultural level of the keepers will hinder the absorption of science and advanced concepts.

  Zhang Enquan, a zoo designer and technician of the Beijing Zoo breeding team, said: Public attention is the only driving force for the zoo to move forward.

  In 1828, the world's first modern zoo built for scientific research purposes—London Zoo in England was completed.

In the past two hundred years, international zoos have developed into a complex of leisure and entertainment, ex-situ conservation, scientific research and nature education.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has the latest positioning of the zoo in 2015-"The core goal is species protection, but its core action is to achieve positive animal welfare."

  So far, there are no less than 300 zoos of a certain scale across the country, accounting for one-fifth of the total number of zoos in the world, and it receives more than 100 million tourists every year.

However, in the past 30 years, the development of zoos in mainland China has been almost outside the global environment. At present, only Changlong Wildlife World in the mainland has joined WAZA.

  Compared with zoos in foreign countries and domestic zoos in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, there is a clear gap in the nature education of inland zoos.

Huazha said that in the pangolin exhibition area of ​​the Taipei Zoo, a transparent plastic ball containing a pangolin model will be equipped. Visitors can feel the warm pangolin nails by sticking their fingers through the small holes, so that they can feel the pangolin's feel. .

Guangdong Changlong Wildlife World prepared a fur specimen of a sickly koala, and let nature introduce herself.

At Wuhan Zoo, an exhibit of panda feces was also equipped with the proposal of the flower eclipse.

In order to give visitors a more vivid understanding of the pangolin's feeding process, the Taipei Zoo will also prepare a transparent long food box for the pangolin so that visitors can see the long tongue of the pangolin.

  The flower eclipse is impressive and there is a protection picture of the Taipei red frog in the zoo, which shows that the protection of the Taipei red frog is protecting the surrounding environment and then protecting other species around it like an umbrella.

This is called "umbrella protection" in ecology.

In fact, enriching and creating a habitat-like environment for animals is to allow visitors to understand the relationship between animals and the surrounding environment, and how humans affect the environment and how they affect the animals, thereby protecting the animal's habitat.

In the western zoo circles, there is an article called "How to Show a Bullfrog", which is known as the industry bible, which also expounds the close connection between animals and the surrounding environment.

  But in fact, domestic zoos are doing something contrary to the protection of endangered wild animals.

The aforementioned industry veteran told China News Weekly that in domestic zoos, there are many exhibition areas with bird language forests and bird shelters. Because the exhibition area does not have breeding conditions, a batch of birds must be supplemented and replaced every year. The source of a large number of birds is from the wild. "The cost of our wild catch is much lower than the cost of international trade. Many people go to the wild to catch wild birds and sell them to the zoo."

This phenomenon is more serious in the domestic amphibian and reptile museum.

In domestic zoos, many of the two climbing halls are outsourced, which makes it easy for the zoo to exempt the trade of amphibians.

The protection of domestic amphibians is not good, and the zoo has the lowest level of breeding and management in the two crawl halls. Every year, the venues have to replace a batch of animals from the wild. "The two crawl halls in domestic zoos are of no significance to animal protection. In many cases, Next, the zoo is an accomplice in the destruction of animals".

"The Land of Original Sin"

  For any first-class zoo, it is its mission to help the reproduction and protection of rare animals, and even to feed back the nature with its own breeding strength. This is true of Taipei City Zoo and Singapore Zoo.

In 1955, the Beijing Zoo began scientific research on the breeding and breeding of rare animals.

In 1960, the Beijing Zoo established the Science and Technology Committee, and in 1988, the Beijing Zoo Science and Technology Research Institute was established.

In the 1980s, Li Fulai, a well-known Chinese ornithologist and Beijing Zoo, overcame the technique of artificial breeding of crested ibis and promoted the technique to the wild to promote the proliferation of this rare species of crested ibis.

But by the end of the 20th century, the Beidong Research Institute silently disappeared, and the cooperation with research institutions, universities and colleges gradually decreased.

In mainland China, there are only a few zoos that can play a role in scientific research, and most zoos are racing on leisure and entertainment tracks.

  At the end of the 20th century, the domestic competition set off a trend of despising native species and introducing foreign "rare birds and exotic animals". African lions, elephants, and giraffes became regular visitors to domestic zoos.

"It is a wonderful thing to see African animals in the Chinese Zoo." Huazha said.

In Shen Zhijun's view, how can we talk about the protection of the living environment of these animals if they are thousands of miles apart.

In 2016, a group of zoos including Shanghai Wildlife Park and Hangzhou Wildlife Park imported 35 African elephants from Zimbabwe.

  In contrast, the Taipei Municipal Zoo has established a Taiwan Animal Zone, bred 21 kinds of native Taiwanese species, and is the first zoo in the world to achieve artificial breeding of pangolins.

In the past two years, Shanghai Zoo has opened the first exhibition area in the mainland that introduces native animals systematically. The native pavilion of Hongshan Zoo is expected to open around National Day this year.

Huazha said that the domestic zoo population management has not been done well, for example, the inbreeding of raccoons is particularly serious.

  As early as the 1940s, the establishment of the zoo biology department has clarified the role and role that the zoo should play.

"We must go back to the source, otherwise, the development of China's zoo industry will continue to be chaotic in the next few decades." The aforementioned industry veteran said.

Huazha believes that the zoo is a place of original sin, after all, it deprives animals of their freedom.

Zhang Enquan mentioned in a speech that if there is no zoo, a person would have to walk 29,000 kilometers if he wanted to see all the wild animals in a medium-sized zoo.

If the zoo still has the necessity and significance of its existence, Huazha said that only when it transforms into a modern zoo can it face its own original sin.

  (Reference materials: "Going to the zoo is a serious matter", "Illustrated Zoo Design", "Zoo Wild Animal Behavior Management")

  China News Weekly, Issue 16, 2021

  Statement: The publication of the "China News Weekly" manuscript is authorized in writing