China zoo halts weight-loss plan for famous overweight leopard that resembles animated Disney character

China zoo halts weight-loss plan for famous overweight leopard that resembles animated Disney character China's larger-than-life big cat has been hailed by zoo visitors for its chunky appearance. Photo: The Paper
  • Big cat looks like Zootopia's Officer Clawhauser, attracts many visitors
  • Animal obesity common in China zoos due to space, feeding issues

A 16-year-old overweight leopard in a zoo in China has gone viral for its striking resemblance to a character called Officer Clawhauser in the Disney animated film Zootopia.

Panzhihua Zoo in southwestern China's Sichuan province, had been trying to help the big cat lose weight, but had recently given up because it was too old.

In March, video footage of the leopard dubbed "China's Officer Clawhauser" circulated online, making the zoo an instant hit.

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The leopard always strolls leisurely and his body has grown so big it looks out of proportion with his head.

Visitors queue up to see him and, this year, the zoo's ticket sales rose to 190,000 yuan (US$26,000), more than in 2023.

The small five-tier city zoo charges just two yuan (US$0.28) a ticket on regular days and three yuan during holidays.

Many call the place "a zoo with a conscience" because it spends most of its ticket sales on food for the animals.

Animal obesity is a common problem in China's zoos.

One reason for this is because the animals are fed "too well", according to the Nanjing HongShan Forest Zoo, widely recognised as the country's best zoo because of its devotion to the animals' well-being and happiness.

Another reason is the animals' limited living space, Sun Quanhui, a senior scientific adviser at World Animal Protection, told the mainland media outlet West China City Daily.

Sun advised the zoo to reduce the amount of feed and put the food in hard to reach places to increase the leopard's exercise, which would also be beneficial to his psychological well-being.

A member of staff at Panzhihua Zoo, which was founded in 1977, said they did not have the money to improve its aged facilities.

However, they had managed to dismantle the old enclosure and double the leopard's living space.

The zoo heeded Sun's advice, putting the leopard on a diet and changing the way they feed him. But the big cat was still the same weight two months later.

A member of staff told West China City Daily that they had given up the diet plan after consulting multiple experts, who suggested the leopard was too old for all the changes.

Leopards live 12 to 17 years in the wild and can live up to 23 years in captivity.

Zoo staff say the Officer Clawhauser lookalike has no health problems: "All is fine as long as he is healthy and happy," they said.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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