Croc Attack Sheds Light on "Disastrous" Conditions at Taiwan Zoo

May 18, 2007

Disturbing allegations are surfacing about a state-run zoo in Taiwan where a crocodile bit off the forearm of a veterinarian last month (see photos).

The incident occurred on April 11 at the Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan (Taiwan map), and was captured in gruesome photos published by international media outlets.

Within days of the accident, it was revealed that zoo officials had been misidentifying the offending croc to the public as a Nile crocodile when in fact it was a saltwater crocodile.

Then on April 21 officials disclosed that one of the zoo's main attractions—an African elephant named Ali that the zoo thought was male—was actually female.

Authorities responded to these revelations by ordering a new sex survey of all the zoo's animals, according to Jason Fu-Feng Hung, director of the Kaohsiung government entity that oversees the zoo.

"We authorize[d] the institute of wildlife conservation to re-check and identify the gender and species of all animals in the zoo so that the public would not be misinformed again," he wrote in a letter to National Geographic News.

But the recent incidents have also unearthed serious complaints by animal-welfare groups.

"Among the three government-run zoos on Taiwan, Shoushan is the worst one," said Wu Hung, director of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), an animal-welfare organization whose volunteers have documented conditions at the zoo.

Eyewitness accounts, photos, and videos from EAST and other animal welfare agencies paint a picture of a zoo with lax regulations and poorly designed facilities run by uninformed staff.

In August 2003, while observing Shoushaun's hippopotamus exhibit, members of EAST noticed a baby hippo at the bottom of a pool.

"We told zoo workers there was a baby hippopotamus dying in the bottom of the pool," he said. "They took water out and found it. They told us they didn't even know the mother had been pregnant."

"It Was a Disaster"

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