It’s wet, it’s dirty, it smells like sulphur — but hey, it’s snow! And it’s here, along with all the joy and drama one might expect in these frantic weeks before the Spring Festival holidy. And perhaps nobody’s feeling that anxiety more than Owen’s beloved lions at the Hangzhou zoo. This was a top story on the Baidu (China’s equivalent of Google) news site today:
On January 5, 2013, at the Zhejiang Provincial Museum’s lion mountain pen—-A group of sightseers, upon seeing the African lions, immediately began packing snowballs. The lions, sensing danger, hurried behind the scant protection they could find. The female lion ran under a wooden board, while the male lion took cover behind a tree trunk, keeping both eyes firmly locked on the group of tourists. “嗖”，一位年轻人用力把雪球扔向非洲狮。狮子慌忙躲闪，没扔中，但游客还是笑得很大声。另外几位游客和孩子有样学样，向狮子扔雪球。其中一位拿一整块一整块的雪，使劲砸下去。
Sou! Yelled one of the young men, as he threw a snowball as hard as he could at the African lion. The lion lept away, unharmed, but the sightseer still let out a hearty laugh. Then a few more sightseers, like children imitating his example, began throwing snowballs at the lions, too. Among them, one hefted giant blocks of snow and smashed them down with all his might.
The female lion let out a cry of fright, and hurriedly skirted the sides of the large pen back to the male lion’s side, both of them sticking tightly to each other as they backed into a corner. Amid the crashing snow chunks and snowball barrages, they had nowhere to run. Finally, at the moment the sightseers’ interest peaked and they began turning away, the male lion let out out a massive roar, his eyes firmly locked onto his tormenters’ backs.
On a stroll around the zoo – past the alpaca pen, the monkey mountain, the giraffe enclosure, the small animal petting zoo, and the tiger pen — everywhere one could witness people attacking the animals with snowballs. Later, I read an online post sent out by the Wenxin neighborhood police office early yesterday morning. It described an incident in which, during a snowball fight among the downstairs neighbors, some upstairs neighbors saw them and decided to join in. With any indication or warning, the upstairs neighbors hefted a giant chunk of snow down onto the neighbors below. The post quoted the upset downstairs neighbors: “We weren’t messing with them, but they stubbornly/childishly insisted on messing with us!”
Without even mentioning mutual respect among fellow people, or the basic principle of taking good care of animals –sure, it’s just a joke– we still ought to exercise some restraint. We should ask of the other side: Are you having fun?