A young woman named Zi Yue from China and her friend recently visited the Hebin Park Zoo, which is located in Pingdingshan city in the Henan province. Like any other zoo, there are quite a few different sections, including a reptile hall, which houses their snakes and other reptiles. Zi Yue and her friend had no idea what they were walking into.
There were several snake enclosures inside the reptile hall. Two of the snakes were pythons. There was an adult yellow-scaled Burmese python and a dark-scaled, young Burmese python. But the snakes weren’t the only ones in their cages. In each cage, the pythons had a tiny puppy. The zoo visitors were a bit confused.
The younger python had a small brown puppy inside of his enclosure with him, sitting only a few feet from the snake. In the larger snake’s cage, there was a small white puppy curled up into a ball while the large snake slept. The two girls couldn’t understand why there were puppies in there with them.
Pythons are natives of Asia and Africa and are not venomous. Pythons don’t use toxins to kill their prey, like venomous snakes do, they use their bodies to wrap around their prey in order to cut off its blood supply. A lot of python species tend to be more calm, so there are plenty of people who keep them as pets, or they’re put into a herpetarium like the one found in Hebin Park Zoo.
Because of their calm demeanor, and their beautiful bright markings, pythons are pretty popular to snake traders. The down side is that they grow really fast and can get up to three feet long. Pythons can eat just about any small animal, but ones that are kept captive are typically fed poultry, rats, and rabbits. Even though many snake owners feed their pets animals that are alive, it’s not actually the best thing to do.
It’s a frequent misconception that because snakes are natural predators that hunt for their food they have to be fed live animals. It can actually pretty dangerous to put a live animal in a cage with a snake. If the snake doesn’t immediately attack, the prey can react in self-defense and harm, or even kill, the snake. Unfortunately, there are many people unaware of this information and continue to feed their snakes live prey, especially in China.
It didn’t take long for Zi Yue to put two and two together and determine that the puppies inside the cages were intended to be lunch for the snakes. When she looked closely at the larger python, Zi Yue noticed that there were three or four large bulges in the snake’s body. She realized that the lumps were probably puppies, as well. Disheartened, Zi Yue began filming the snake to attempt to get other’s attention.
Zi Yue uploaded the video and pictures onto China’s biggest social media website, Weibo. It didn’t take long for users to become outraged by the posts. Many of them began speaking about how cruel it was and wanted answers from Hebin Park Zoo. The zoo administrators couldn’t ignore all of the attention, so they were forced to make a statement.
A zoo spokeswoman came forward and admitted that the puppies were intended to be given to the pythons as food, but she claimed that it wasn’t up to the zoo. “Our reptile hall is privately managed. They have a contract with the park but their feeding activities have nothing to do with us,” she said. “Our director has summoned them and asked them to stop.” Many people weren’t satisfied by the gesture.
Soon enough, the news about the puppies made its way to animal advocacy groups, like PETA. Member of PETA’s office in Asia, Keith Guo, spoke up. “This is yet another example of the importance of an animal protection law and why China needs to implement one,” he told a newspaper. He took even further steps.
Even though the zoo had promised that they wouldn’t use puppies again, Guo thinks that the zoo itself is a part of the problem. “We urge anyone who cares about animals to avoid zoos,” he said. Despite what the people believe, the Chinese law doesn’t demonstrate their beliefs.
Even though attempts have been made to make them, there are currently no animal welfare laws in China. Congressman Zhou Ping introduced a nationwide animal protection law in 2006, but it was rejected. In 2009, the country’s first comprehensive law for animal welfare was written, but it isn’t a law yet. Until then, advocates for animals will continue to fight.
One of largest cases of animal cruelty in China is the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival. The festival has been a huge source of debate among animal rights activists that believe the festival is a center for animal abuse. There has been proof that a lot of the dogs sold at the festival were pets that were stolen by traders. Even though people from all over the world have protested this festival, the attitudes vary towards the welfare of animals in China.
The state media and Chinese government constantly reject pleas to protect the animals in China. Many of the Chinese people believe that animal rights are “anti-humanity” and animals lack sentience and protecting them is a form of Western imperialism. Also, since Chinese policy is focused on economic growth, they’re not really worried about animal welfare. Unless the public complains, there is really no motivation for places like Hebin Park Zoo to change their ways.
The Hebin Park Zoo has stated that they no longer use puppies to feed their snakes, but they didn’t make it clear what the pythons were eating now. Thanks to social media and Chinese citizens, this a huge victory. The new generation seems to be more concerned with protecting animals than the older ones, so they’re less likely to visit zoos that harm animals.