Beijing Zoo Zoo Review

Beijing Zoo – Zoo Review

The RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review is a quick but informed guide to the quality of places where the public can see animals, including zoos, dolphinariums and other attractions.

We’ve used a range of measures, taken from information available online, to judge how well the animals at the particular zoo or animal attraction are looked after. More than just a ‘review’, the results are actually a Quality Index which will allow tourists and the attractions themselves to judge how well the attractions are performing.

Please note, the information we use is taken from what we assume to be genuine and factually correct comments from reviews, blogs and news stories. If there are factual inaccuracies, please let us know and we will make the relevant changes.

RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review Rating for: Beijing Zoo

Zoo_Review_Stamp_Poor

Summary

The Beijing Zoo and its aquarium has over 450 species of land animals and over 500 species of marine animals. In all, it is home to 14,500 animals. The zoo was founded in 1906 and like many of Beijing’s parks, the zoo’s grounds resemble classical Chinese gardens, with flower beds amid natural scenery and historical buildings. The newest addition is the launch of a new site that hosts live video streams of animal exhibitions, so people that are not able to visit the zoo still can have a look at the animals.

The zoo has a very poor reputation for being notoriously grim. A first check of reviews on recognized web sites such as Lonely Planet as well as scanning recent news articles confirms that suspicion, but the Zoo Review will take a closer look at it. The zoo has also had its share of animal abuse scandals, such as covering up the death of a panda in 2010 and the same year news hit on an international scale that a restaurant at the zoo served exotic animals. The newest one emerged in the summer of 2014, a former deputy director was suspected of embezzling 2.26 million dollars from April 2005 to June 2012, funds that should have gone to construction.

Some good news on the horizon: Animals Asia Foundation, an animal charity devoted to improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam, teamed up with the zoo in the spring of 2014 to highlight animal mistreatment at shows. With the art exhibition “Not born to perform” hosted by Beijing Zoo, they seek to educate both visitors and other zoo managers that the exploitation of animals in captivity is just wrong.

To summarize, Beijing Zoo does not score high in the Zoo Review, and there is a lot of room for improvement to make sure that the welfare of the animals are of a good enough standard. The zoo ground and garden seems well maintained and nice to walk around, but unfortunately this doesn’t apply for the animal enclosures, even though it seems like there has been an improvement. Main areas of concern are the living conditions, and the attitude of allowing the visitors to bother the animals in different ways including throwing things at the animals to get them to move around.

Beijing Zoo pandas, c Beijing Tours.cc

Section One: Social Media and News

This section looks at how the attraction is rated by people on key reviewing sites, and in blogs/the media. The reviews are often not concerned with animal welfare, so this section has a lower influence on the overall mark than other sections. However, it is an important measure of the way the attraction is viewed by visitors.

Number of negative TripAdvisor reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the official TripAdvisor page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  9/20

Score: 1.5 Points

Out of the first 20 reviews on Tripadvisor, 9 rated Beijing Zoo with only one star or two including commenting on their concern about small and poorly kept enclosures. The elephants were mentioned by a few, even people rating the zoo with a high mark, thought they should have more room, and some saw pretty disturbing signs of either boredom or stress. The pandas are the highlight of the zoo for most people, but there were very different views of how they were kept. The Aquarium had a few good remarks, and is a newer addition to the park so many pointed out that it looked well maintained. A point raised by many is that the visitors are not prohibited and reprimanded for banging on the side of cages and windows, screaming at the animals to get their attention (or wake them up), throwing things into the enclosures that hit the animals. Some saw people climbing over fences to get into the enclosure of the less dangerous animals.

Number of negative Google reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the Google search page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  2/3

Score: 1 Point

Comments older than three years were not taken into consideration to try and get a recent portrait of the zoo.

Number of negative news articles and blogs
For the most recent 10 independent blogs or news articles for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative mentions:  5/10

Score: 1.5 point

Of the 10 first independent blogs and news, five of them reported negatively on the zoo. There were several articles about the corruption investigations mentioned in the summary above, the articles only reporting on the actual investigations were not taken into account since we were looking for any mentioning of the actual condition for the animals.

Total Score for Social Media and News Section:  3/10

Section Two: General Quality of Life

This section looks generally at how the animals, as a whole, appear to be treated. It is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms, which focus on key aspects of animal welfare including feeding, housing, health, behaviour and protection from fear/distress.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The Possibly category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Absence of prolonged hunger and/or thirst

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Recent blogs and pictures have shown many of the animals in better shape than pictures from a few years back. With the limited source of information, it does seem like it used to be worse and we can only hope that the conditions are better and still improving.

Being fed an appropriate diet based on their wild diet

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Comments and pictures do suggest that animals are given appropriate food from the zoo keepers, the problem is however that visitors give food to the animals and are not stopped doing this. They obviously give what they carry around for themselves, unfortunately this is vary rarely a good diet for the animals and the zoo keepers will have no way of monitoring the amount of food either.

Ease of movement within living quarters

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Pictures from a few years ago showed elephants chained within their enclosure, but in recent ones they seem to move around freely. What many people were concerned about was often the size of the enclosures, that they were too small.

Enrichment in living quarters (eg climbing frame, toys etc)

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Some pictures show climbing frames, but it doesn’t look like it happens in all the enclosures. For some they are forced to live in a concrete home with little to do.

Absence of injuries or disease

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Absence of pain (eg being not being chained, or not being hit by staff)

Score: No   0 Points

Many reviews from Tripadvisor and Google as well as blogs are concerned about the visitors throwing things such as bottles at the animals if they are not moving around.

Ability to express natural and social behaviours in living quarters

Score: Possibly   1 Points

For some animals it might be OK, but not for all.

Good human-animal relationship with staff

Score: Possibly   1 Points

The staff cannot protect their animals from harassment from visitors, but they did host an art exhibition focusing on putting a stop to exploiting the animals forcing them to perform.

Absence of general fear/distress/apathy

Score: No   0 Points

For some animals it might be OK, but not for all.

Ability to seek privacy/refuge from humans and other animals

Score: Possibly   1 Points

The enclosures are too small.

Total Score for General Quality of Life:  8/20

Section Three: Interaction with the Public

This section focusses on the way the attraction allows the public to touch, play with, photograph, feed or otherwise interact with the animals. The focus is on whether or not the interactions are causing harm or stress/discomfort to the animals, and if they could be dangerous to the public.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The Possibly category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the animal’s welfare

Score: No   0 Points

As mentioned above; the visitors are not prohibited and reprimanded for banging on the side of cages and windows, screaming at the animals to get their attention (or wake them up), throwing things at them and hitting them. Some saw people climbing over fences to get into the enclosure of the less dangerous animals.

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the public’s welfare (any previous history of dangerous incidents)

Score: Yes   2 Points

The animals are not forced to interact with the public – they can refuse

Score: No   0 Points

The public are not allowed to handle the animals and touch them

Score: No   0 Points

The interactions are supervised by staff and in an educational context

Score: Possibly   1 Points

For the general public, comments suggest that it is easy for unauthorised interactions with the animals and hese are not supervised by any staff, or at least not put a stop to. They do arrange events for kids where they do have an educational context to the experience.

Total Score for Interaction with the Public:  3/10

 

Section Four: Conservation and Education

This section looks at whether or not the attraction has a focus on conservation – for example does it support animals in the wild through breeding programmes, research or donations; and education – are visitors informed about the animals so they are not simply seen as objects for human amusement/entertainment.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The Possibly category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Are some of the animals part of international breeding programs?

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Is there evidence of them having released animals into the wild?

Score: No   0 Points

Haven’t found any evidence of this.

Do they actively undertake scientific research into conservation/behaviour of their animals?

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Some blogs have mentioned that there is a centre of Zoological research and conservation within the zoo, but it is difficult to find any good documentation of what they do. What has been found gives us the impression that the focus is on educating a younger audience about the animals and how they act, which is good, but it is difficult to find any evidence showing that they are doing any scientific research on their own.

Does the attraction give money to conservation or animal protection programmes?

Score: No   0 Points

Haven’t found any evidence of this.

Does the attraction provide educational talks or written displays to inform visitors about the animals?

Score: Yes       2 Points

They have written displays in both Chinese and English.

Total Score for Conservation and Education:  4/10

 

Zoo Review Final Score for Beijing Zoo:  18/50

Rating: Poor – needs significant improvement in order to meet welfare standards

 

Do you agree or disagree with this Zoo Review? Please let us know in the Comments below.
If you are from this attraction and would like to comment on this Zoo Review, we’ll be happy to publish your response. Please email info@careforthewild.com or click
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Notes

  1. This report was compiled on: 18th of November 2014 by MBP. Find out more about our Zoo Review campaign here.
  2. Zoo Review Final Score is given out of 50 as a sum of the four sections, then a RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review rating is awarded based on this score:

0-10: Unacceptable – the animal welfare at this attraction appears to be of a very low standard and a cause of great concern
11-20: Poor – it appears that significant improvement is needed in order to meet welfare standards
21-30: Average – the attraction scores well in some areas but improvements would be welcome
31-40: Good – Public opinion and animal welfare measures suggest that the animals here are looked after well
41-50: Best in Class – the welfare of the animals appears to be of a very high standard

  1. TripAdvisor and Google scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (20) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 2.5 as follows:

0-19% negative 2.5 points
20-39% 2 points
40-59% 1.5 points
60-79% 1 point
80-89% 0.5 point
90–100% 0 points

  1. News and blog scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (10) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 5 as follows:

0-19% negative 5 points
20-39% 4 points
40-59% 3 points
60-79% 2 point
80-89% 1 point
90–100% 0 points

 





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