Badaling Wildlife World, a safari park just north of Beijing, is no stranger to tragedy. At least four people, including the park’s director, have been killed by the animals in its care.
This weekend there was another death when a woman got out of her car in the tiger enclosure. The version of events reported in the Legal Evening News is that the unnamed women was quarrelling with her husband, who was driving. Surveillance footage shows her getting out of the vehicle and walking around it, cautiously looking over her shoulder. Then a large animal appears and drags her away. Her mother and husband give chase, with the elderly woman dying in the struggle to save her.
The incident has sparked heated debate online about the safety of safari-style parks – of which there are a growing number in China.
“Why can’t people understand that the rules are there to protect you,” wrote one of the millions of people who viewed the story and commented online.
“The old woman’s death results from her daughter’s stupid actions,” wrote another.
Chinese tourists have come under heavy fire for unruly behaviour overseas in recent years. In 2013 vice-premier Wang Yang said Chinese travellers were guilty of damaging the country’s reputation by talking loudly, spitting and jaywalking while overseas.
Last month officials at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming fined a Chinese man $1,000 for illegally approaching a hot spring to collect water.
Back at home officials are now running a blacklist of Chinese citizens who behave badly while travelling domestically or internationally.
It includes a man who tried to open the door of an aircraft for “some fresh air” as it was about take-off and another who punched a Japanese woman after she told his wife off for eating something she hadn’t paid for.
“This will continue till Chinese people’s quality improves,” wrote one netizen, after the Badaling attack.
Quality or ‘suzhi’ is the buzzword of the moment with the government – with state-controlled media frequently mentioning it in a bid to raise social standards.
However, some people felt the park should take some of the responsibility saying that the savannah-style landscapes lulled the victims into a false sense of security. “There should be more signs reminding people to stay in their vehicles,” said one.
Others pointed out people had been killed there before: an 18-year-old hiker who took a shortcut through the tiger enclosure died in 2009 and a security guard who got out of his vehicle in the same area was killed in 2014.
This March the park’s director was crushed by an elephant.
Such animal parks are often in the news for breaking rules about encouraging tourists to feed live animals to the predators. In Harbin’s Siberian Tiger sanctuary, you can pay to have a young calf put in the cats’ enclosure or you can even throw a live chicken in there yourself.
Animal right activists say the tiger parks do nothing to help the endangered animals’ population in the wild and often serve as cover for the illegal trade in pelts and medicines made from animal bones.
“Everything about his accident is wrong. The women shouldn’t have got out of the car and the tigers shouldn’t be in captivity,” one netizen concluded this week.
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