A zoo in northern China is under fire for allegedly forcing two elephants to do handstands and martial arts-like stunts like crossing a single-plank bridge to entertain the public.
According to local news agency Xinhua, the Tianjin Zoo in Shenzen has trained two Asian elephants to perform and they even offers tickets to later take pictures with the animals.
The elephants are forced to perform 20-minute shows five times a day since 21 May, with extra shows on weekends and holidays.
After hearing from animal activists, the environment protection group Nature University filed a complaint against the zoo management and the local government of Tianjin for breaching the country’s ban on animal shows.
“Stunts like handstands, sitting and kneeling are unnatural for elephants and will cause serious physical and mental harm,” said Hu Chunmei with the Nature University.
Hu also added that the public may also be at danger because the elephants may go on a rampage due to the stress and pain they are submitted to.
Xinhua reported that iron stakes were used to make the elephants lift their hind legs to do a handstand.
Zoo officials deny any abuse and say the performances are just “behavioural training demonstrations. We have not employed beating or abuse in the process, and the activity is not profit-driven.”