Zookeeper sacked after tourists ride 69-year-old tortoise

Ruth Doherty
Zookeeper sacked after tourists ride 69-year-old tortoise
Zookeeper sacked after tourists ride 69-year-old tortoise




A zookeeper has been sacked after an image of a tourist riding a 69-year-old giant tortoise went viral online, sparking outrage among animal rights groups.

A man can be seen sitting on the rare Aldabra tortoise, a class II protected species by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The photo was uploaded onto the Chinese social media site Weibo, with the person that posted it saying the tortoise was distressed and being prodded with something to make it move.

There are two giant tortoises at the zoo, a 69-year-old, 150kg male called Maojia, and a 54-year-old, 140kg female known as Maolu, both gifted to the zoo by Mauritius in 2012.

Zoo officials immediately looked into the image after it was posted, and a female zookeeper lost her job after it went viral.

Peng Ku, a spokesman for the Xiamen Haicang Wild Animal Park, in Xiamen City, China, said that the riding of giant tortoises is strictly forbidden.

According to the Mirror, he said: "An animal caretaker has been dismissed for allowing visitors to ride on the backs of our giant tortoises.

"We are also looking into whether this was a one off incident, or if it was something that had happened more often and whether other keepers or staff were involved."

The spokesman added that tourists were charged for having pictures taken with the tortoises, and that the zookeeper in question couldn't "resist the lure of money" through getting more pictures taken by letting the animals be ridden.

According to the Daily Mail, he said: "It costs tourists 30 yuan (£3.6) to take a picture with the tortoises and the zookeeper can earn 9-10 yuan (£1) as commission from each picture.

Authorities are now investigating the incident.





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