Asia’s largest crocodile in captivity has been injured by a group of Chinese tourists who threw a large rock at it, drawing criticism on social media for animal cruelty.
The African crocodile, nicknamed Xiao He, was attacked at a zoo in Fujian province, southeast China with a rock measuring 17cm (6 ½ inches) which left it with long, thin cuts on its neck.
The incident happened last week when a family tour group visited Xiamen Central Africa Zoo, the Fujian-based Strait Herald reported on Monday.
A zoo manager, surnamed Xu, said visitors saw a family of adults and children throwing stones at the motionless animal to determine whether it was real or a fake model.
The family was laughing and taking photos of the animal when it finally moved, Xu said, but quickly left the scene when it began to bleed from its injuries.
All the while, other tourists at the scene tried to talk them out of provoking the animal but they would not listen, he added.
“This family had children with them and were not afraid of setting a bad example,” Xu said.
Zoo hospital staff rushed to treat the crocodile’s wounds after the incident.
“There were three cuts with blood flowing out of them,” a zookeeper surnamed Lu was quoted as saying. “We first treated those wounds using medicine shipped from Taiwan.”
The 37-year-old male crocodile currently holds the record for Asia’s largest crocodile in captivity, weighing 1,250kg (2,750 pounds) and measures 5.8 metres (19 feet) in length.
People on social media were outraged by the tourists’ treatment of the animal.
“If they really want to find out whether it’s real or fake, they could put the child in the enclosure to touch the crocodile’s head and then they’d know,” read one highly rated comment on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.
“It’s not a huge injury, just let the parents stand in front of the crocodile and say sorry to its face,” wrote another comment, which received more than 23,000 likes.
The zoo is monitoring the animal’s condition and police are investigating the incident.
China does not have a deeply ingrained culture of animal rights protection and incidents of animal cruelty at zoos are commonplace, triggering social media outrage.
In April, tourists plucked tail feathers out of four live peacocks at a zoo in Jiangsu province, eastern China in the second such incident to happen at the zoo.
In the same month, tourists killed a kangaroo at Fuzhou Zoo in Fujian province, southeast China, by hurling bricks at it to get a reaction. A couple of months later a pair of men was caught throwing stones at tigers inside Beijing Wildlife Park.
In September, Chinese social media was rocked by a video showing a visitor to an alligator reserve in the southeastern province of Anhui poking and kicking the animal to rile it up in an apparent bid to get a better photo.
Last month a visitor to a zoo in the Jiangxi capital of Nanchang in eastern China was seen feeding popcorn to a hippo, along with the plastic bag.
This article Chinese tourists throw rocks at monster croc in latest zoo cruelty outrage first appeared on South China Morning Post