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Out beyond Pudong in Nanhui County, some 35 kilometers from Shanghai’s city center, is a flat expanse of retired farmland offering little green, little shade, and lots of mud in the rainy season. This is the unlikely site of the Shanghai Wild Animal Park (Yesheng dongwuyuan), ppened in 1995 as a joint venture between the Chinese Ministry of Forestry and the Shanghai Municipal Government and now home to more than 10,000 animals of over 200 species.

Most visitors make directly for the drive-through safari area to the left of the entrance. Tour groups can go in their own vehicles, but there are also park buses at no extra charge. These drive through at the (relatively swift) prescribed speed of 8-12 kph and hardly stop. So it is a challenge for visitors to try to see everything, let alone take pictures. The buses do slow down, however, when passing through the heavy metal gates separating four areas: tigers, bears and monkeys, cheetahs and lions. There’s quite a large number of animals of each species in these smallish areas, which are quite bare with a few young trees, a few bushes, dry grass, some water and the occasional wooden shelter. The safari takes about 15 minutes.

In November 1999 the Shanghai Wild Animal Park came to fame through a tragic accident: A man was attacked and mauled by several young tigers. It took park employees half an hour to rescue him and he then died on his way to the hospital. He was a bus driver who’d left his vehicle — full of schoolchildren on an outing — to check on a defective bus which was blocking his way. After the accident, park authorities decided to equip all vehicles entering the tiger area with modern communications devices and give them regular mechanical check-ups, and more warning signs were set up. In contrast to other Wild Animal Parks in China the Shanghai Park does no longer sell live animals to visitors to feed the tigers or allow tourists to pose for pictures with beasts of prey.

Two thirds of the entire Park area are home to a wide variety of other animals: Monkeys, rhinos, giraffes, birds, deer, pandas and many others. The elephants and giraffes live in small, bare, muddy pens. Young children will enjoy feeding the monkeys, rabbits and pigs. Visitors can walk or take a pony cart for a tour. There is an extra charge for the cart and the drivers might be reluctant to stop more than twice and will urge customers to speed up and get back on when they do.

One of the main attractions of Shanghai’s Wild Animal Park is the Animal Circus. There are several hour-long performances per day. They feature young men and women in colorful costumes dancing to loud music on a stage before a backdrop of artificial rocks and a huge tiger head. The dancers also sing carrying white fluffy dogs, parade animals around the arena (holding tiger and lion cubs in their arms and pushing cheetahs on trolleys). There’s also an elephant show and other performances of bears or monkeys riding bicycles.

After the circus visitors who hurry up can also catch the sea lion performance near the entrance — the standard fare of retrieving objects, catching balls and so on. In the park there are also a couple of restaurants, a Ferris wheel, go carts and bumper cars.