years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Signage of Xiangjiang Safari Park and Chime-Long Paradise Park in Guangzhou, China.
Xiangjiang Safari Park and Chime-Long Paradise Park was established in 1997 by the Chime-Long Group based in Guangzhou. The Chime-Long group is one of the largest group corporations in China, and comprises eight subsidiary companies: Chime-Long Paradise, Chime-Long International Circus, Xiangjiang Safari Park, Chime-Long Water Park, Guangzhou Crocodile Park, Chime-Long Hotel, Xiangjiang Hotel, and Chime-Long Golf Practice Center.
The Chime-Long Group has received awards from the Guangzhou City and Guangdong Provincial government as a demonstration base for the Chinese Cultural Department, and as a Science Education Base for Guangdong Province.
Xiangjiang Safari Park covers an area of 130 hectares. The official website states it is the biggest animal theme park in Asia and a “heaven of animals”, with 460 species, including many endangered animals. The safari park claims to have over 100 white tigers born at its facility, amounting to over 50 per cent of all white tigers globally.
The park is internationally famous for importing the first koalas into China and works in partnership with the Currumbian Wildlife Sanctuary in Australia, the suppliers of the koalas to Xiangjiang.
General conditions This is an extremely large complex containing a safari park, a crocodile farm, a hotel and an international circus arena. The owner has adopted an "African-style" theme for much of the park with large open grassland for many species. Within the traditional zoo area, the enclosures are generally small, barren and lacking general enrichment. The animal performances and the international circus show are carried out on an immense scale and cause a large amount of animal suffering.
Safari drive: In general, many of the species within the safari area have a large amount of space. Species such as deer, antelope and rhinos are free-roaming and allowed to interact.
Elephants In contrast to many other species in the safari drive area, two Asian elephants are in a small area enclosed by an electric fence. One of the elephantas shows signs of stereotypic head-swaying.
Bears The safari area has two bear enclosures, one for brown bears and another containing a mix of Asiatic black bears and sun bears.
White tigers The park exhibits a large number of white tigers.
White deer and white Thomson's gazelle The safari area contains a large number of white deer and gazelle.
In general, there is little public information relating to species conservation, habitat conservation and/or general species behaviour and ecology. In contrast the park contains a wealth of information on the koala bears as documented.
Members of the public exhibited adverse behaviour towards many of the animals in the traditional zoo area of the park. This includes: Laughing at the stereotypic behaviour of an Asiatic black bear cub; Laughing at a chimpanzee's angry display and teasing it through glass; Shouting at a hippo in an attempt to get the animal to move.
Staff attending to the goats were seen to be very rough with their handling. No staff members were seen trying to discourage the negative behaviour of the public towards the animals.
A number of animals exhibit stereotypic behaviour; this includes an elephant head swaying, and an Asiatic black bear cub exhibiting severe “neck twisting”.
This is a serious concern at Xiangjiang Safari Park. The barriers provided within the animal performance areas are completely unsatisfactory to keep animals away from the public. If an animal wanted to escape the arena, it would be possible to do so with ease.
Xiangjiang Safari Park has a number of animal performances, including an elephant show, a general animal show called “The Monkey King” and a white tiger show.
The crowd were clapping and laughing enthusiastically throughout the performance. The crowd gasped at the sight of the number of white tigers as they entered the arena.
General animal show 'The Monkey King'
This is held within a purpose-built arena accommodating over 500 people. There were about 100 people present for this performance. The monkey king show is based on a popular Chinese story. The show involves a variety of different animal species.
A German Shepherd dog is part of the performance; the dog was physically pushed onto the stage to carry out its part in the act.
White lion and tiger show
This is held within a large purpose-built arena accommodating over 3,000 people; there were about 250 people present for this performance. The performance involves white tigers, white lions and tiger/lion cross-breed animals.
The performance is based upon fear and intimidation, although some positive reinforcement was observed. In general the circus showmen frequently engage in negative reinforcement, whipping and striking the animals repeatedly, forcing them to carry out tricks against their natural behaviour and demonstrating to the audience that the animals can only be “controlled” by pain and fear.
The animals show “defensive threat” behaviour, with their ears laid back, mouth open, nose wrinkled, eyes narrowed, and tail held low. In general, the tigers and lions are in fear of the circus showmen and cower when the showmen approach.
Three white lions are made to perform the following tricks: Standing on their back legs; Walking on their back legs.
A show woman also sits on top of one of the lions and puts her fist inside his mouth.
Guangzhou Crocodile Farm
The crocodile farm opened in 2004 and covers an area of 73 hectares. It is reported to have cost 300 million RMB. The Chime-Long Group website states it is home to over 100,000 crocodiles and is the world's largest crocodile park.
The crocodile farm has a number of animal shows, including a crocodile show, dog agility show and a sea lion show.
The crocodile show and dog agility shows had finished by the time we arrived at the crocodile farm.
The Chime-long hotel is an African colonial-style hotel with animal heads and animal parts adorning the walls.
Chimelong International Circus The Chimelong International Circus was established in 2005, and claims to be the world's biggest circus. According to website reports, the current performance is entitled "The Forest Code". The show claims to show how to create a harmonious environment for humans and all the creatures of the world.
The Xiangjiang safari park houses a large number of wild and domestic species. A number of the animals within the traditional zoo area are in small enclosures that do not allow them to perform any of their natural behaviours. The chimpanzees at the park are still housed in the same small featureless enclosure they have been kept in since a previous visit in 2004, and no additional enrichment facilities have been provided.
The animal nursery contains very young animals that will have either been rejected by their mothers or removed by force. These animals show signs of needing their mothers by suckling each other. One bear cub in the nursery is also showing severe signs of stereotypic behaviour due to lack of enrichment. Many of these young animals are also being used inappropriately for people to have their photos taken with them, despite their obvious discomfort.
There is little educational value for people to see animals that are not housed in conditions resembling their natural habitat. Teaching animals to perform inappropriate tricks does nothing to educate the public or foster respect for animals. There is no evidence that training and performance make up for the lack of stimulation provided by impoverished living accommodation. Experts attest that exhibiting such animals in fear and stress leads to a misrepresentation of the species in the public eye and teaches them nothing except the animals’ size, shape and colour. Loud music used during animal performances and crowd noise can also cause stress and severe welfare problems.
The showmen in the animal performances use fear to control the animals and force the animals to carry out humiliating tricks. The showmen frequently engaged in negative reinforcement, striking the animals with sticks, forcing them to carry out tricks that go against their natural behaviour and demonstrating to the audience that the animals can only be “controlled” by pain and fear. The tigers and lions show “defensive threat” behaviour, with their ears laid back, mouth open, nose wrinkled, eyes narrowed and tail held low. Due to fear of the showmen, no “offensive threat” behaviour was observed.
This only demonstrates a need to dominate other species rather than a respect for the behavioural, ecological and conservation needs of these individuals and the species they represent. No animal should suffer in this way for the sake of public entertainment – especially when it results in a compromise to the health or welfare of the animal concerned. Animal performances portray the animal to the public in a way that is humiliating and contrary to the principles of promoting empathy and respect.
The exhibition of white tigers shows a lack of knowledge and respect for tigers as a species. Due to the recessive nature of the gene that produces the white variety, inbreeding is one of the most common ways to produce white tiger offspring, ie, father and daughter. This severe inbreeding can lead to a variety of health problems including immune deficiencies, scoliosis, cleft palates, mental impairments and ultimately animals dying at a younger age. The white tiger gene is a deleterious recessive gene, which is disadvantageous to the survival of animals in the wild. This lack of respect is compounded by having white tigers as a centrepiece at the Chime-Long Hotel.
The lack of respect for species is further compounded by cross-breeding tigers and lions to create a sterile individual, demonstrating the park's lack of commitment to conservation and emphasis on the “unusual” and making money from such “freak” animals called “ligers”.
Safety at Xiangjiang Safari Park, Guangzhou Crocodile Farm and Chimelong International Circus is a serious concern. All wild animals have the potential to cause series injury and death to both the showmen that abuse them and members of the public encouraged to interact with the animals in the show ring. This is no more evident than in the case of the elephant which is encouraged to place his foot on a member of the public.
Zoos and safari parks are ideally placed to foster compassion for animals and raise awareness and understanding of the welfare and conservation needs of individual animals and species. Xiangjiang Safari Park, Guangzhou Crocodile Farm and Chimelong International Circes make no attempt to provide this knowledge and to educate their visitors for the benefit of welfare and conservation.
Animals Asia recommendations
Immediate end to the use of animals in performances and further development of human acrobatic displays.
Provision of larger enclosures and enrichment tools for all animals housed within the traditional zoo enclosures to allow them to exhibit more naturalistic behaviours, with particular reference to the provision of larger enclosures for the chimpanzees and the provision of an indoor area that allows them to escape from the public eye.
The provision of larger enclosures for the many thousands of crocodiles within the crocodile farm.
A change of emphasis towards conservation of endangered indigenous species and a move away from breeding animals that have no conservation value, such as white tigers, white lions and cross-breed tigers and lions.
The provision of information on the need for both habitat and species conservation.
An immediate end to the use of animals for photos with members of the public.
An immediate end to the breeding of young tigers and bears for the animal nursery and an end to the removal of young from their parents.
An end to the breeding and sale of dogs.
An end to the sale of products in crocodile farm shop, which exploit fur-bearing animals and the crocodiles exhibited.
Meet with Animals Asia staff to discuss the management and husbandry of the bears, and seek advice on veterinary treatment, appropriate housing, environmental enrichment and improved nutrition for all species.