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Chinese zoo paints chow chow dogs black & white to pass them off as pandas

Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu Province tried to pass dogs as pandas, sparking outrage by visitors

Dogs painted black and white to resemble pandas in Chinese zoo (Screen grab)

Dogs painted black and white to resemble pandas in Chinese zoo (Screen grab)

Vasudha Mukherjee New Delhi

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Visitors in China were outraged to discover that a zoo had painted chow chow dogs black and white to resemble small pandas.

Taizhou Zoo in Jiangsu Province opened its latest attraction last week, featuring pandas, which turned out to be dogs dyed by zookeepers.

The Chow Chows is a spitz-type dog that originally comes from northern China.

According to several media reports, the zoo staff trimmed the mane of the chow chow dogs, then dyed them black and white to pass off as pandas, China’s national animal.

The exhibition, which was unveiled on May 1, placed the painted dogs on display every day between 8 am and 5 pm, where throngs of visitors congregated to look at them – until word of the zoo’s deception began to spread.

The zoo has been accused of deceiving its customers and of animal cruelty.

According to a report by the Daily Mail, a British media company, a pet beautician said that dyes could be safe for dogs as long as they did not have any chemicals in them, in response to claims of animal cruelty.

The zoo also defended its decision of placing painted dogs in the panda enclosure.

“There are no panda bears at the zoo and we wanted to do this as a result,” a spokesperson for the zoo was quoted as saying, according to a report by MoneyControl. The spokesperson defended the zoo’s move by saying that people also dye their hair.
“People also dye their hair. Natural dye can be used on dogs if they have long fur,” they said.

According to a report by Singaporean newspaper Strait Times, the zoo put up a a signboard that stated that the "Panda dogs" were not an actual dog breed, but dogs that have been groomed to look like pandas. 

The zoo also stated that they could not get real pandas, as the area was too small to keep them.

The Taizhou Zoo charges 20 Chinese yuan (around Rs 236) for entrance. The "panda" attractions is included in the ticket.

This is not the first time a zoo in China has been accused of engaging in such deception. In August 2023, Hangzhou zoo in eastern China was also accused of dressing a man in a bear costume in its bear enclosure due to the absence of the real deal.

Pandas are endemic to China and the country is known to use the animal as a diplomatic tool, known as "panda diplomacy". This decades-old practice involves leasing pandas to other countries. Foreign zoos pay substantial rent for pandas, which supports conservation efforts.

As of November 2023, there are approximately 1,800 giant pandas in the wild and 600 in captivity worldwide, with their habitat limited to the mountains of southwestern China.

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First Published: May 08 2024 | 3:33 PM IST

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