It’s hard not to get depressed on a visit to a zoo in China. The animals are in cages that are too small. Weather conditions are inhospitable to many of the tropical animals on display. And the food supply is generally inadequate; visitors often throw junkfood into the trash-strewn pens. As international attention increasingly focuses on China’s inner workings, zoos like these have begun to disappear. In Hefei, a large city in Anhui Province, for instance, the tigers have been moved to a large, open-air habitat. Many other animals in Hefei and elsewhere throughout China, however, remain locked in their small concrete boxes.
There are signs of hope. A number of well-run tiger and panda preserves have sprung up throughout the country as a means of educating the public about China’s wildlife and as a way to foster the continuation of these species. Rumors abound, though, that the animals in these preserves, once they die naturally, become fodder for Chinese medicine and rare products such as tiger corpse wine.