Full Title Name:  China Case Studies: 2. Wolves Escape from a Zoo

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Song Wei Place of Publication:  Animal Legal and Historical Web Center Publish Year:  2005 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center

A short case study about the killing of wolves that escaped from a zoo in China.

In Dongqian Lake Zoo of Ningbo City, on October 24, 2002, six wolves were becoming more and more anxious with unconcealed excitement watching the sunset. That’s because they were going to carry out a plan premeditated for long time. They remained as calm as usual waiting for the golden opportunity – the falling of night. It was darkening, quiet and still. Suddenly, the “mission” started; they broke the wire net with teeth and claws, running together toward the Guotongluan Mountain nearby. “The wolves escaped!” A large-scale mission “Wolf Hunting” began with the fighting between human beings and wolves. On the second afternoon, the first wolf was shot dead by the police in the bushes on Guotongluan Mountain; four hours later, the second wolf was shot in the chest and died; the third one died of poisonous bait; the fourth one was hit on the head, brains splashing; the fifth was trapped in a boar clip, the only one left alive; the sixth was shot dead at the foot of Baixi Reservoir Hill at around 7:40 pm on Dec 31, by Wu Qiucai, a hunter in Wu Village, West Pool, Chalu Town. Ending with the death of the last wolf, the “Wolf Hunting” mission made people ponder with a heavy heart.


Scholars and folks held heated discussions on the way of wolf-hunting. The pro insisted on shooting dead. Since wolves are cruel in nature and the six were in hunger, people’s security would probably be threatened. Li Guangliang, Vice Secretary of Dongqian Lake Town where the Wildlife Zoo was located, stated, “More than 20,000 people are living around the zoo. Many tourists also come here. If the wolves injured any of them, nobody would be able to shoulder the responsibility. Besides, wolves are not protected animal in our country; it doesn’t matter if they are killed.” The slogan of local government and forestry police was “Never leave the battlefield if all wolves are not killed”. But the con was against shooting and suggested that wolves be caught by other means. Because wolves have already been listed into “Animals on Brink of Extinction in China”, the six wolves In Dongqian Lake Zoo were worth protecting. We should protect the wildlife, show mercy toward the wolves and capture them in proper ways. Liu Xichen, the general engineer of Beijing Wildlife Zoo mentioned that an easy method, which would harm neither men nor wolves, was to cover the path with nylon web or shoot with anesthetic guns. Xie Zupei, member of Ningbo Biology Academy and China Wildlife Breeding Committee, pleaded on the wolves’ behalf, “Let them return to the forests where they belong to.” Citizens also appealed to relevant departments for merciful measures to the wolves from the perspective that wildlife should be protected.


Despite the heated debating, the local government and corresponding departments still ended the “great mission” with the “remarkable accomplishment” that five wolves were shot, only one alive. Indeed, wolves are wild and may attack human beings. But we’ve also heard stories like “A Wolf Saved A Man” and “Wolf-Child”. As long as human beings do not do harm to them and let them live freely, wolves would not take the initiative to attack men. Moreover, they grew up in the zoo since they were born. Actually the six wolves had lost their nature long before and would not attack people on their own initiative. We fear wolves because of the influence of legends such as “Legend of the Evil Wolf” and “The Wolf-Grandmother”. Therefore we should change our old viewpoints and treat them kindly from the perspective of protecting wildlife.


However, why did the wolves risk their life to escape instead of staying in the zoo? According to investigation, there are two reasons. First, the rusty wire net was ignored by the workers, offering a great opportunity for wolves. Second, they were hungry. The wolves were supposed to be fed in the morning and evening, each consuming 2.5 kilo meat per day. But they were not fed with adequate food in time. They seldom ate live chickens, only those without head and legs. Thus they escaped even on the risk of losing their lives. It reveals many problems on treating animals.


1.       The raiser was not cautious and the management in the zoo was careless. Holes in the rusty net were not discovered, making it possible for wolves to flee. Therefore the management regulations in the zoo should be improved.

2.       The zoo maltreated the animals. As is mentioned, hunger was the main reason for the escape. Some workers said that the wolves were so thin when captured that not a trace of meat was found in the throat, stomach or gut. It was only about 24 hours after they ate at the last time. Even their basic needs for living could not be satisfied. In fact, once they entered the alleged “protecting animals” zoo and were confined in a small cage, their freedom and nature stepped in the way of being eliminated. Could their dull looks and thinning bodies remind human beings, who earn money through them, of something?

3.       The awareness of animal protection is weak in China. Let’s see how the five wolves shot dead were done with. The first one was sent by local departments to a restaurant named “Try It” only one hour after its death, bones picked and flesh eaten; the second, third and fourth were immediately skinned, cut and made into specimens; the last one was shared by villagers whose livestock were attacked many times on the morning when it died. Regarding animals, someone only think of how delicious they would be and seldom care about their feelings. I have nothing to say but feel cold.

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