Most zoos preach conservation and education, justifying displaying wild animals as a powerful learning tool that protects species in the wild. At the Beijing Zoo, however, visitors can not just view exotic wild animals, they can eat them at the Bin Feng Tang restaurant right in the park. The menu includes the webbed toes of a hippopotamus, kangaroo tail, deer penis, ant soup, scorpion, peacock, ostrich egg, shark fin soup and other delicacies. Prices range from 100 and 1,000 yuan ($15-$150).
The restaurant’s owners told Chinese media the meat was from exotic animal farms and totally legal. In the face of negative media coverage, restaurant staff now say the menu is being revised. Until recently, the zoo exhibits of just-for-looking animals included information about which parts tasted best and were most useful according to traditional Chinese medicine, but those have also now been removed.
China is the world’s biggest market for wild animal consumption, with buyers willing to pay $70,000 for a tiger’s bones and penis. Some student activists in China have started conservation groups, but they have a long cultural history to contend with. “They think turtles are small animals only good for eating, so why bother saving them,” student Luo Xinmei told The Guardian. “Almost no one in Guangzhou realizes this is a center of the illegal wildlife trade.”