reports the photos were taken at Hangzhou Zoo on January 5. According to Hangzhou Weekly
, the images were captured by visitors and posted to Chinese social media sites such as Sina Weibo, where they were shared more than 80,000 times and ignited a firestorm of angry protests and condemnation.
reports that many Chinese netizens called for greater protection of animals.
The Huffington Post
reports that an individual threw the first snowball, before other adults and children joined in the "fun game," while the lion and the lioness cowered timidly.
Lionhearted is a term that conjures a picture of the lion which fails utterly when they were confronted by unruly zoo visitors at the Hangzhou Zoo.
The photo above shows the male of the pair dodging a snowball aimed at it while visitors laugh aloud at the spectacle of the King of the Jungle cowering in fright at an otherwise harmless snowball missile.
A grown man throws unusually large chunks of snow and the lioness, confused at being the target of predatory pranks, runs in a circle attempting to take cover behind the male in a corner.
reports that as the visitors walked away after harassing the lions to their hearts content, the male lets out a fierce roar, apparently wishing he could have a go at his assailants on a level playing ground.
And equally disconcerting is the fact that the aggression of the crowd at the Hangzhou Zoo was not restricted to predatory lions. According to China Smack
, people were also seen throwing snowballs at monkeys, giraffes and other small animals.
The Chinese Xinhua News Agency
reports that a zoo official Zhu Yan, said zoo workers did not see visitors throwing snowballs. Zhu reportedly said: "Although snowballs can't hurt large animals like lions, the behavior upset us nonetheless. Our animals should be treated fairly. We hope our visitors will use some self-discipline and be nicer to them."
reports that a netizen comments: “If the lions weren't locked in a cage, would the visitors still dare to attack them?”
Chinese commenters on NetEase
express disgust at the cowardly behavior of the visitors:
-Toss these punks into the cage. Those who are with me, ding… [10,966 upvotes at time of translation]
-I suggest making them go in and have a snowball fight with the lions! Grass mud horse, those monkeys!
-With our countrymen’s characters so low, even if we had democracy, what use would it be? Once people’s characters are high, the appropriate system [of government] will form itself naturally. A democracy without education and cultivation to prop it up is only the tyranny of the many over the few. If those who endorse anti-character theory died out, then there might be hope for China.
-Officials oppress the people, and the people bully the even punier life-forms. When have Chinese people changed? We’re only lying to ourselves.
-After the common people have improved their own characters can they seek to change the fact that they’re oppressed, can they gain. This is the only possibility. If those who endorse anti-character theory died out, then there might be hope for China.
-This is not something caused by amount of education, but clearly the lack of morals. The notion of a so-called ancient country of thousands of years of civilization, a country of etiquette and manners, is becoming more and more pale and wan these days.
-Release that lioness!
Commenters on QQ
-The lions [say]: TMD, if you have the balls, come in and let’s fight one-on-one!
-The faces of the people who attacked the lions really shouldn't be covered up with a mosaic [done on QQ but not NetEase], they should be revealed for us to see what kind of people they are. Wild lions being locked up in cages is already sad enough, and yet they were attacked by snowballs. In the future, the zoo should establish a new rule, that whoever who hits the animals will be fined. Those who support me, ding! [8,305 upvotes at the time of translation]
-Can’t blame everything on the ZF, sometimes we should turn around and look at the characters of the people of the Heavenly Kingdom.
-Chinese people is the nationality with the worst moral characters in the world.
-Put the visitors who attacked the lions down there, and let the lions have some fun.
-In the eyes of the lions, those who attacked them are inhuman, and if lions are beasts, then those people are worse than beasts.
-Looking at the innocent expressions of those lions, my heart breaks.
The Huffington Post
reports that China's zoos have often been criticized for animal abuse and that in spite of efforts to addresses the problem, animal cruelty persists as these photos testify.
Some online commenters say that such incidents are commonplace at the Hangzhou Zoo. A Redditor Triviumsogerd
The sad thing is, this is way better than what they normally throw. When I went LAST YEAR people were throwing anything they could get their hands on at the animals. Such as full plastic water bottles, coke cans, also full, rocks, and the worst part is NO ZOO STAFF WAS PRESENT. Although the Chinese government has banned certain types of animal abuses at its country's zoos in recent years, the restrictions do not apply directly to the behavior of the zoo's visitors.
reports that Mang Ping, professor with the Central Institute of Socialism, and an expert in the welfare of zoo animals in China, said abuse of zoo animals by visitors or zookeepers was commonplace in China. He said that the law does not protect the animals because the definition of a wild animals is not clear in Chinese law.
Mang and 50 other legal experts have called for stricter laws protecting wild animals.