These concerning images seen more than 25 million times online show two badly malnourished and bony zoo lions which were purchased from a circus supplier.
The skin-and-bone male and female lions at the Liaoyang Zoo in China’s north-eastern province of Liaoning have led to members of the public becoming concerned about potential mistreatment at the hands of the animals’ keepers.
Pictures show the apparently frail lions lying on the grass of their outdoor enclosure, while additional images show the emaciated male looking extremely thin with its ribcage clearly visible.
A zoo spokesman denied that they had been mistreating the big cats, explaining that the pair had recently been purchased from a company which supplies circus and entertainment animals.
The Sanya Guqianqing Tourism and Performance Company, based in China’s southernmost province of Hainan, shipped the lions on 7th September after the sale was approved.
The cats arrived after a long journey on 11th September, the Liaoyang Zoo spokesman said.
The elderly animals, which are both around 15 or 16 years old, had been kept in indoor enclosures for the past six months, and were found by zoo vets to be badly malnourished.
The zoo said it was in the process of nursing them back to full health.
Responding to public concern, Liaoyang’s branch of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration said on 17th September that it had sent officials to inspect the lions.
Its vets found the animals to be moving and eating “normally” despite their bony frames.
The lions were not diseased, and the office found no evidence of mistreatment or abuse.
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