A kangaroo at an animal park in South China died after being pelted with jagged stones by visitors, while another was injured in a separate incident days later.
The incidents both occurred at the Fuzhou Zoo in Fujian province early this month, sparking outrage among animal lovers online, Strait News reported on Thursday.
An employee of the zoo's animal rescue centre, surnamed Chen, said the dead kangaroo was a 12-year-old female. She was hit by a sharp stone on April 4 that injured her left foot, which led to massive bleeding the next day.
A few days later, a 5-year-old male was injured when a visitor threw part of a brick into the animal's enclosure. The zoo's kangaroo breeder, surnamed Zhang, told Strait News that visitors have been known to throw stones to make the marsupials jump around, or to wake them up if they are sleeping. She said kangaroos usually are active from 8 to 10 am and 3 to 5 pm, and tend to rest under trees the remainder of the day.
After learning of the attacks, many netizens called for animal parks to clamp down on uncivilized behaviour.
"Animals in the zoo are there to help us better understand them and ourselves. They're not responsible for performing as you wish. Such visitors should be blacklisted," a netizen named "Duomi" wrote on Sina Weibo.
The zoo has security cameras in areas with protected animals, but most are pointed toward the enclosures rather than at visitor areas, which means the offenders responsible for the kangaroos' injuries were not caught on camera.
The zoo has applied to the Fujian city government for funding to install high-definition surveillance cameras. It also asked people to show love toward the zoo animals and to protect them.
Like many other zoos, Fuzhou Zoo separates visitors and kangaroos with wooden fences. Signs warn people not to feed the animals or throw objects.
After the two attacks, the zoo reduced the number of kangaroos exposed in the visiting zone. Now, only three kangaroos can be seen by visitors. The body of the dead female kangaroo will be preserved for display.
"People feeding animals with human food, or touching or scaring zoo animals, are often seen in China," said Sun Quanhui, chief scientist from World Animal Protection, an international nonprofit animal welfare organisation.
He said many visitors are not aware of the potential risks to both visitors and animals that come from breaking the zoo's rules.
Apart from raising public awareness about animal protection, those who break the rules and cause severe injuries to animals should be investigated for legal responsibility, he said.