Lions pelted with snowballs

CNC report from Hangzhou
Added On January 8, 2013

A zoo in east China has come under fire, following an online report that visitors pelted snowballs at two lions.

The post triggered a public outcry, as well as heated discussion over the lack of awareness and enforcement of animal rights among the public.

According to the microblog, a group of visitors threw snowballs towards lions in a zoo in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province.

With snowballs flying towards them, the lions appeared scared, huddled in the corner of their cage with nowhere to escape.

The story got reposted and commented on hundreds of thousands of times, many calling the behavior "out of line".

Others say zookeepers should take responsibility for what happened.

Zookeeper Zhu Yan says most of their staff were clearing snow and ice at that time and expressed anger at the lions mistreatment.

"Animals deserve to be treated equally. Throwing snowballs to animals is a kind of discrimination."

It's not the first time this has happened... Bears and other animals have been attacked by visitors too.

Wang Hongbo, a zoo administrator says the zoo lacks the power, to punish those who abuse animals.

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) WANG HONGBO, Vice Director of Hangzhou Zoo Office:
"We feel hurt by what these people did. But we can’t punish them, after all we are not law-enforcers."

Wang says the zoo is a window of nature, adding it should be a place where people learn how to respect life, appealing to visitors to do so:

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) WANG HONGBO, Vice Director of Hangzhou Zoo Office:
"Animals are our friends. I hope visitors will learn to think more and care more for animals."

The zoo says it will do more to stop visitors from abusing animals in future, promising more visitor education and patrols in future.