A lion lays motionless on the floor of a small, dirty cage in the lion and tiger house of the Tianjin Zoo in Tianjin, China.
Visitors gather around the entrance to the lion and tiger house at the Tianjin Zoo in Tianjin, China.
Chimpanzees huddle near a heat lamp for warmth in their cage on a cold winter day in Hefei, China.
Photos of tourists posing with a captive bear hang on a wall near a bear enclosure at the Tianjin Zoo in Tianjin, China.
Visitors to the Beijing Zoo surround a squirrel monkey enclosure in Beijing, China.
A labrador retriever lays chained to a wall on a pallette in a dirty cage in the Kunming Zoo in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.
Visitors to the Tianjin Zoo feed bunches of leaves to giraffes in Tianjin, China.
A zookeeper walks past an elephant in a small concrete and metal cage at the zoo in Nanjing, China.
Visitors to the Kunming Zoo hold out junk food to monkeys begging for food from their cages in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Signs on the cages warn visitors not to feed the animals.
Tourists pose with a seal as zookeepers stand nearby at the Hefei Zoo in Hefei, China.
A girl feeds junk food to a group of raccoons in the Qingdao Zoo in Qingdao, Shandong, China.
The "monkey honor guard" waits to begin a show for tourists at Monkey Island near Lingshui, Hainan, China.
A tiger sleeps in a small concrete and glass cage as people crowd and bang on the window in the lion and tiger house at the Tianjin Zoo in Tianjin, China.
An injured black panther lays on the cement floor of its cage in the Qingdao Zoo in Qingdao, Shandong, China.
Small Concrete Boxes
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.