Friday, September 14, 2012

A Depressing Visit to the Unbearable Bear Zoo

If you know me and we're friends on Facebook, you've probably already noticed my most recent photo album devoted to my field trip to the bear zoo. If not, let me enlighten you. Each month, the school wants us to take the children on a field trip. We plan it in advance at one of our after school meetings by making suggestions and taking a vote. One of the Korean teachers, Eun Ah, had suggested going to this fresh hell of a zoo. After having seen the Zhongshan Zoo when Jeremy and I first moved here, I didn't have high hopes for this place. The Zhongshan Zoo was the most horrible thing I'd ever seen.

At the Zhongshan Zoo, you are treated to a menagerie of the malnourished and mistreated animals kept in habitats or cages far to small for their needs. Each animal made me sadder and sadder until we got to the grizzly bear. This big and beautiful creature was stuck in a small cage where China's stupidly ignorant masses would gleefully attempt to feed it cigarette butts and candy. That was when I broke down and I cried. I never wanted to see that zoo again. In fact, when my parents came to visit last year, they'd mentioned they would be interested in seeing the zoo. Until I told them about this experience. My parents despise animal cruelty just as I do. Now with this visit to the bear zoo, I am quite sure they will be happiest not seeing it.

I wish I could unsee what I have seen.

At our meeting, I pleaded for us to go somewhere else on our field trip. Eun Ah assured us the bear zoo was fine and that it wasn't like the Zhongshan Zoo. Either she's never been to the Zhongshan Zoo or her idea of properly treating animals is vastly different from mine. In any event, I braced myself for the trip, knowing I'd have to put a smile on my face for my students.

So, join me on a tour of the most depressing place ever. And just so you know, I sent some of these photos along with an email over to PETA. If you live in China too, please write them about how desperately this country needs to be educated on proper treatment of animals. It infuriates me how people here are regarding this issue but I have to try to remember that these folks were not educated in this way and that a large number of the population never went beyond middle school. See, kids? Stay in school!

 From the entrance, it doesn't look too bad. It kind of has a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad look to it.
 That entrance leads into a bear cave which at first further attempts to make you feel like a Disney World patron. It even had a poorly-done Winnie the Pooh in there. And this, my friends, is where any likeness to Disney dissipates into nothingness, swallowed by darkness.
 Yes, real darkness. Inside, there are a ton of stairs and it is completely dark. Whoever thought up this design is a total bastard, but that's probably a given once you see these poor bears.
 We're shown the baby bears first, kept separately for reasons unknown to me. They're really cute but they were in a small concrete and glass enclosure. And the glass was supported by extra beams of wood like you'd have supporting a sapling. Yeah, that's safe.
When we left the exhibit of baby bears, our guide (who I might add said very little to us and when she did, it was all in Chinese of course and she walked BACKWARD the whole time to face us when it was completely unnecessary) led us to these bears. I had to stop the "oh shit" that was about to fly out of my mouth. Can't bears jump? Eek!
 But we didn't need to worry. These bears were so lethargic. EVERY bear we saw (except at the bear show - scroll down for that) seemed like it was drugged. And look at this lovely concrete habitat. This is just horrible, but it gets worse, sad to say.
You see? Now THIS is even worse. It's beyond awful.
 And more nightmare-inducing images for us all. Check out the giant hamster wheel in there. None of them looked like they had any energy to run around this barren habitat much less run around in a wheel. One of my fellow teachers at the school later told me that they use some parts of the bear - I think he mentioned gall bladder fluid - to make some Chinese medicines and this is why there are so many of these bears and they are all laying around in a heap.
 There was a bear in the wheel but he was using it as a place to nap.
And now, because those last images were so disturbing, please cleanse your eyes with these bizarre custodian bear statues. The mountain behind it is also nice.
Another cleanser for your eyes: this inspiring bear mural complete with angry bear in a thong. Ahhh!
 Now, I present the most abominable bear show ever.
 Twirling a baton of fire.
 Jumping rope.
 More jumping rope.
 Roller skating, which, in cartoons, is hilarious. I think of The Simpsons. But this is nothing like Matt Groening's genius creation. This is just so, so sad.
Walking on a ball.
 Tightrope walking.
 Riding a bicycle, which, again, I will say is just hysterical in cartoons. It is definitely not funny in reality.
 Then, for the finale, they bring out both bears for a boxing match. This photo actually shows one of the bears attacking his trainer. There was no blood or gore or anything (which makes me wonder if it still had claws and teeth intact) but my Korean teacher (who was just as disturbed by this field trip as I was) and I were secretly hoping the bear would eat his cruel master.
 No dice. The bear fight goes on and my soul dies a little.
Oh and to cleanse your eyes again, please enjoy this shitacular entrance to that unlit, unsafe cave from hell.

Despite how truly awful this mess of a zoo was, I took the opportunity to explain to my students why I did not like the park once we'd returned to school. I know at least one of them listened to me because his mom had written me a lovely note thanking me for teaching her son that animals deserve to be treated with love and respect, and that her son wanted to help the bears.

And now, you. I've already contacted PETA about this situation. You can help these bears and other animals by writing to them too (click here to visit PETA's website). Anyway, I know this was a bit depressing but I had to share it because maybe something can be done to change things here. And to make up for all the sadness, I will end with a super-cute picture of Raelynn:

Awww, now that's better!

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