Viral footage of a dead lion lying in a filthy pond in front of horrified visitors at a Chinese zoo has sparked a public outcry.
The incident came to light after a tourist filmed the heart-breaking scene on Thursday at the Handan Foshan Wildlife Zoo in northern China‘s Hebei Province.
The park initially denied the animal had been dead, claiming that it ‘was resting in the water’. They told reporters today that the lion had ‘died naturally of old age’, citing autopsy results.
The incident came to light after a park visitor filmed the heart-breaking scene (pictured above) on Thursday at the Handan Foshan Wildlife Zoo in northern China’s Hebei Province
The shocking video was uploaded online yesterday by a zoo visitor who had captured the scene at the wildlife park in the city of Handan.
Footage shows the African lion caged in an enclosure with its lifeless body submerged in a filthy pond.
The horrified onlooker can be heard saying: ‘The lion is dead. Oh my god, this is so sad.’ The original footage has since been deleted from the account.
A manager of the zoo’s visitor centre initially denied that the animal had died, claiming that it ‘was just resting’ in the water.
‘We don’t have such an incident here. The lion was just lying there and resting. It wouldn’t die,’ the anonymous staff member told the Handan Television on Thursday.
As the incident continued to attract attention nationwide, another park manager, known by his surname Yang, told reporters that the lion drowned in the pond after being sick for a long time.
The park initially denied the animal had been dead, claiming that it ‘was resting in the water’. They told reporters today that the lion had ‘died naturally of old age’, citing autopsy results
‘It’s because the lion had been sick, for a long time.’ Mr Yang told the Beijing Television. ‘We let it out to enjoy the sun today. It jumped into the pond and [drowned] due to a lack of energy.’
The park added that the local forestry authorities had been involved to investigate the animal’s death.
Speaking to reporters today, the zoo’s vice president, Wu Guangshu, claimed that the African lion had died of old age.
‘After our forensic examination, we have primarily determined that the lion had died naturally of old age,’ Mr Wu said.
An official statement will be released after the autopsy report is published, according to the official.
Angered netizens have been angered by the zoo’s mixed responses, slamming the wildlife park ‘shameless’ and calling to boycott the facility.
One viewer condemned: ‘What a shameless zoo. One day they said the lion was resting and then the next day they said it died of old age. What kind of excuses are they?’
Another commenter urged: ‘This is so sad and cruel. We need to shut this zoo down!’
Viral footage of a dead lion soaked in a filthy pond in front of horrified visitors at a Chinese zoo has sparked a public outcry. This file photo shows an African lion at the Dubai Safari Park
The incident has also drawn criticism from international animal groups.
Born Free Foundation, a UK-based wildlife charity, described the footage as ‘a profound and brutal disregard for life’ while urging the Chinese authorities to step in.
Will Travers OBE, executive president of the organisation, told MailOnline: ‘It tells you so much about the lack of compassion and the lack of professional care that so many captive facilities, not just those in China, display – a profound and brutal disregard for life.
‘We simply have to get a grip. I will be writing to the Chinese Embassy in London expressing my deep concern and calling for action,’ Mr Travers added.
The park and local authorities have yet to publish any official statements regarding the cause of the lion’s death at the time of writing.
Similar events in relation to mistreatment towards zoo animals have recently been exposed by web users in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A heart-wrenching video showing a captive tiger appearing to be depressed as it walked in circles non-stop inside a tiny enclosure at a Beijing zoo was revealed in April.
Another appalling video shows Chinese visitors using fishing poles to feed captive tigers in a so-called ‘interactive programme’ offered by a wildlife zoo in south-eastern China’s Yunnan province.
The health crisis has shed a light on the issue of animal welfare in China as officials scramble to establish laws to protect wildlife.