Global Times | 2013-12-23 19:53:01

Located in Jiufeng Forest Park in Wuhan, Hubei Province, is a “Dream Theater” that puts on animal performances, drawing applause from audiences and growing criticism from animal rights activists

Their circus shows, which include jumping tigers, cycling bears and monkeys riding goats, attract throngs of people at 10 am and 2 pm every day.

Trainer Zhang Jiafeng performs with five tigers onstage. Photo: IC

During peak seasons, like the National Day holidays, the show is put on up to eight times a day, pushing both trainers and animals to the limit.

The trainers’ job is by no means an easy one. For Zhang Jiafeng, 21, who has been performing with the tigers for four years, maintaining safety is still paramount.

During performances, a fence separates the audience from the stage. However, the most dangerous moment for the trainers, Zhang said, is the journey between the den and the stage before and after the show, during which the trainers are placed in an enclosed space with the animals without any protection.

Trainer Zhang Jiafeng sends the tigers from their den to behind the stage ahead of a show. Photo: IC

Despite the danger and psychological pressure involved in this work, the performers and trainers in this circus make at most 4,000 yuan a month.

A goat named Xiaofang and a monkey are one of the most popular duos in the circus. Photo: IC

Animal performances are facing tighter controls in China. The country so far hasn’t legislated on animal welfare, which is still a fairly new concept for the nation. However, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has ordered twice, in 2010 and 2013, an end to all kinds of animal performances. The ban has not been seriously observed

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