China Cetacean Alliance investigation into Shenzhen Safari Park, China (April 2017)
Shenzhen Safari Park was opened in 1993, the first zoo to have a large, “free range” enclosure in China. Shenzhen Safari Park is a scenic area and a highly rated tourist attraction. Shenzhen Ocean World, which houses the marine animals, became its sister facility in 2009. Ocean World has many animal performances and close contact programs. It is a figurative hell for many animals, with Shenzhen temperatures often soaring into the 30s.
There were five dolphins in total, three for performing and two for swimming with the public.
They are all pan-tropical spotted dolphins. The performing dolphins were kept in a different tank from the dolphins used for swimming and only had access to the performance enclosure during the show. The dolphins used for swimming with the public have a plastic roof over their tank and visitors can observe them in an indoor area. The water quality in this tank was not good and the paint was chipped off, with debris on the tank bottom. Both tanks had rusty gates. There was no enrichment at all in either tank for these intelligent creatures.
The two dolphins used for swimming were also used for taking photos with the public.
A sea lion performed at the beginning of the performance. Then three dolphins performed common tricks, including water ballet, jumping out of the water, hitting a ball and making in-air sounds referred to as singing by the staff. The whole show was extremely noisy. After the show, visitors payed to have close contact with a dolphin.
One elephant was used for riding and photo taking. The staff used a piece of iron wire to poke its ear, as as means to control its movements. It walked around the whole park and the staff made it stop and pick up people when they saw interested visitors.
Three elephants were used for the public to feed, while another one was locked up separately in a tiny holding area. One elephant who looked quite young was performing, twirling hula hoop hoops, kicking soccer balls and doing handstands. The CCA investigator noted that its tusks seemed in very poor condition and looked to have been ground down.
Later, in another much larger outdoor animal show, three elephants were twirling a hula hoop, but our investigator could not tell if they were the same elephants seen earlier that day.
Asian black bear
We noted seven Asian black bears in total. Two were in an indoor circus and five were in the outdoor show. Again, we could not tell if some of them appeared twice or not. During the outdoor show a bear was made to walk on a wire and another rode a motorcycle through a narrow rail in the air before dismounting down from a high tower at the end. Five bears played out a traditional Chinese wedding, which was extremely troubling considering the audience was full of children. The narration for show even mentioned “Mr. and Mrs Bear will now got into the bridal chamber finally…look how excited he is…” and other various vulgar innuendos.
Five monkeys performed during our visit. One was in the indoor circus and was made to ride a goat. Four were in the outdoor show and played string instruments and walked on stilts. All of this would have required inhumane and stressful behind-the-scenes training.
One orangutan was kept in an enclosure for visitors to see for most of the day. It was also featured in the outdoor show, where it was carried by a keeper on an electric bike to the arena.
One tiger was seen in a fancy car parade.
Yaks, horses and camels also performed in the outdoor show, as well as birds and pythons.