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China Bans Animal Circuses; Restricts Zoos

What is prohibited, and what does the new law mean for the zoos and the animals?

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A tiger at the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park in Guilin, China.

A tiger at the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park in Guilin, China.

China Photos / Getty Images
Updated January 20, 2011

In October of 2010, China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a ban on animal performances in zoos and circuses, which takes effect in January, 2011. There had previously been a moratorium on the sale or transfer of performing animals. The order also bans numerous cruel practices in zoos, such as the sale and consumption of wildlife products. China’s 700 zoos attract 150 million visitors a year.

In 2009, Bolivia became the first country to ban animals in circuses, and the law took effect in 2010.

One Chinese zoo that has come under fire in recent years is the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park in Guilin, China after an investigation by Animals Asia. The Park has been criticized for abusing, de-toothing and de-clawing the animals in its live animal shows, feeding live animals to the tigers, operating a bear bile farm, selling wine made from tiger bone, and butchering its tigers and selling the meat in their own restaurant. Under the new order, all of these practices are prohibited.

What will happen to the animals?

Ideally, the animals would no longer be bred and the existing zoos could act as sanctuaries where the animals can live out their lives, if they are unable to survive in the wild. Since the zoos were profiting off of the prohibited practices, some now claim they will no longer be viable under the new law.

David Neale, the Animal Welfare Director at Animals Asia, stated, "In some cases, I am not sure where the animals will go . . . In some cases I would recommend euthanasia, since there are animals in a very bad way after a few years of being in these performances."

Happy Ending for Some Bolivian Animals

In Bolivia, there's a happy ending for at least 24 lions, a baboon, six monkeys, a coati mundi, a deer and a horse who were seized from eight circuses. Animal Defenders International not only seized the animals pursuant to the country's new ban on animals in circuses, but is transferring them to a sanctuary in the U.S. where they can live out their lives.

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