When Nanjing Zoo ended animal performances in 2011 it feared visitor numbers would decrease but the opposite happened - the zoo enjoyed its highest visitor numbers in five years.
In 2010 Animals Asia visited Nanjing Zoo and reported back on a wide range of animal performance attractions. Cycling moon bears, diving pigs as well as tiger taming and bird attractions. A year later, when the Chinese government moved to put a stop to animal performances it meant a radical rethink for the zoo.
Zoo management took the decision to replace performances with a massive investment in conservation education work. From the equivalent of just a few thousands to tens of thousands of US Dollars and they were soon to reap the reward.
In 2010 a total of 867,513 people visited the zoo. When animal performances stopped in 2011, the zoo continued to go from strength-to-strength breaking the one million barrier for the first time, finishing at 1,011, 035. Then, in 2012, the zoo’s first 100% animal-performance-free year, numbers climbed again to 1,026,756 - a further increase and the second year in a row of one million plus visitors.
Animal Asia welfare director Dave Neale commented:
“We are delighted for Nanjing Zoo though not especially surprised by the turnaround. Time and time again we see the demand for animal exploitation being over exaggerated by those who provide it. Too often zoos fail to realise that they had already been losing customers because appetites for animal performances and exploitation are diminishing fast. Now there is an increasing desire to learn about the complex lives of animals, their environment and how best to conserve it. Nanjing Zoo deserves credit for breaking with the past and looking to the future in such a dynamic and considerate fashion.”
The increased investment and a switch to a more environmentally conscious approach was confirmed by Nanjing Zoo with Education Department Head, Mm. Bayali, saying:
“We stopped animal performances in March 2011 but increased our conservation education activities and publicity. The investment on conservation education went up from tens of thousand to 800,000 RMB, meanwhile, we put greater effort into group visitor marketing, guiding the public, especially the group visitors, to understand the cruelty behind animal performance correctly and rationally."