Chinese veteran provides shelter for wild animals at his zoo for over 30 years
Published: Apr 27, 2022 09:27 PM
Luo Yingjiu works at the zoo Photo: screenshot of video posted on Bilibili

Luo Yingjiu works at the zoo Photo: screenshot of video posted on Bilibili

All animals at the zoo located in Enshi, Central China’s Hubei Province have nicknames, like Guai Guai, Qiu Qiu and Shan Shan, which were given by 82-year-old Luo Yingjiu, a Chinese veteran who wears all manner of hats at the zoo he has run for more than 30 years.

The zoo has been called China’s loneliest zoo as Luo is its only staff member. Luo and his zoo went viral recently after his granddaughter began to upload videos about the zoo and the animals’ stories on video sharing platform Bilibili. 

The account “Luoyeye de dongwuyuan” (lit: Grandpa Luo’s zoo) currently has more than 300,000 followers on the platform.

When talking with the Global Times, the veteran introduced his daily life with the more than 20 kinds of animals at the zoo. 

Every day Luo rises before dawn and cleans the houses of all animals. As the zoo is located on the Fenghuang Mountain in Enshi, Luo has to travel downhill to purchase food for the animals in the local market. 

Sometimes he is unable to purchase all the food he needs in one go. Local residents often see the old man with all-white hair stooping as he pushes his bike laden with several heavy bags up the mountain road back to his zoo, which is also his home.

Luo opens the zoo’s gate at 9 am sharp and then sits beside the gate to wait for visitors. 

Luo said that as the zoo has gotten more and more attention on the internet, the number of visitors has increased, especially on the weekends. There are usually almost hundreds of visitors on the weekends now, but in the past things were quite different.

In 1989, local authorities went to ask Luo whether he wanted to run a zoo with local government support because he had been rescuing wild animals from the market and needed a place to shelter them. Luo agreed to the arrangement and has been working hard to provide for the animals for dozens of years now, even during times when government funding fell short.

The zoo, about the size of a basketball court, was the only one in Enshi at that time. It contained some large-size predators such as tigers and lions, attracting many visitors, but its glory years did not last very long.

Luo Yingjiu works at the zoo Photo: screenshot of video posted on Bilibili

Luo Yingjiu works at the zoo Photo: screenshot of video posted on Bilibili

Luo continued to rescue disabled animals such as an Asian black bear that lost a paw, but as the animals got old, weak or ill, fewer visitors were willing to purchase tickets even though the price had dropped by half.

Some people suggested that Luo should close the zoo, but the veteran refused. In his view, the zoo was not just a tourist attraction, but also a shelter and home for wild animals and he was adamant on keeping his promise.

When Luo is not busy treating animals or introducing visitors to them, he feeds animals with food bought from the market in the mornings. Luo has researched the different habits of the various animals at his zoo so as to provide them with the proper nutrition. 

The Asian black bear Guai Guai, already 19 years old, gets more attention from Luo because of its advanced age.

Guai Guai was saved by Luo about 17 years ago. Luo was told that a local restaurant owner had purchased a black bear and was preparing to kill it for a feast.

He was familiar with the laws concerning protection of wild animals and knew that killing and eating them was illegal and could result in a prison sentence for violates, so he got in touch with the restaurant owner and finally paid 3,000 yuan ($458.3) for the bear and took it back to the zoo.

Guai Guai has lived in the zoo since then and Luo said that he can feel the bear’s emotional connection with him. At first, it was fiery and attempted to hurt people who got close to it because of its injury, but now it does not shy away from Luo’s touch anymore.

“Animals also have feelings like humans and recognize people who are friendly to them,” Luo said to the Global Times.

Even though years have passed, Luo has not forgotten his promise and noted that he will continue saving and taking in animals that need help for the years to come.