As one of the largest in the country, Harbin Northern Forest Zoo was opened to the public in 2004. The zoo is located in the Gezidong (Pigeon Cave) District of Acheng on the outskirts of Harbin around 40 kilometers away from the city centre. Gezidong Region is very hilly, with forests covering 85 per cent of the land. The site was selected after an investigation conducted by experts from the Chinese Academy of Engineering who concluded that the plentiful sunshine, clear air and tranquil environment here provided the most suitable spot in Harbin to breed and keep animals.
With a total area of 848 hectares, the zoo has more than 20 modernized animal exhibition halls including bird forest, golden monkey hall, water fowl hall, giraffe hall, rhinoceros hall and polar animal hall. It also has five large-scale feeding areas for lions and tigers, bears, wolves and African animals. With novel and unique exhibition methods, it reduces the distance between visitors and animals.
Arriving via the main entrance, visitors are met by sculptures of lions and tigers. Lining the scenic roads are sculptures of animals both extant and prehistoric. An animal village for children is a nice touch, but the large-scale animal performance hall may seem slightly incongruous to the western idea of what a zoo should contain.
Over 240 species of animal live at the zoo, numbering over 5,000 in total. These include rare animals such as white tigers, white lions, African leopards, African white-rhinoceros and gnu. Pandas (a national treasure of China) are also well represented.
This place is disgusting.
When news broke about the 11 Siberian tigers found dead from malnutrition in a Shenyang zoo, we wondered how many more tiger deaths would be brought to light as the year drags on. We didn't have to wait long to find out - two white tiger carcasses have been found in a mass grave near a zoo in Heilongjiang, along with the remains of lions, leopards, elephants, great bustards and other animals.
The Times reports that more than 30 bodies were found in the mass grave, a three-meter deep pit near Harbin Northern Forest Zoo. The bones and remains, which were visible through the snow, belonged to animals that had died after the zoo's 2007 decision to cut costs by changing animals' diets.
Zoo manager Li Xiaowei told Xinhua that large carnivores, including the tigers, had been fed chicken bones, which replaced their usual diet of beef or lamb. Lions were occasionally fed corn buns instead of meat. Alternatives were also tried out on other animals, according to the Times:
Another zoo employee said that more than 80 per cent of the animals were being fed on bean cakes to keep up their protein levels. However, the zoo could no longer afford cakes of sufficient quality.
The employee said: “The animals eat this feed every day and many can only just stay alive. Death is coming closer and closer.”