As the Wall Street Journal points out, the incident has put the country's 37 private zoos under the public's microscope. In fact, the zoo that kept Ah-he in captivity, a private company called Skyzoo, didn't even have a permit for him. The Environment and Animals Society of Taiwan (EAST) says that regulations on captive performing animals are not strict enough. Taiwan does have a law that covers the transportation of animals. It reads:
While carrying [transporting] an animal, its food, water, excrement, environment, and safety shall be well taken care of. Furthermore, it shall be prevented from being frightened or hurt. The carrying vehicles, the carrying ways and the other carrying measures to be complied with shall be determined by the competent authority at the central level.
But, as in the case of Ah-he, these regulations are not always adhered to or enforced. "In Taiwan, we have laws and regulations aimed at protecting animals and livestock, but the execution implementation of these laws is often feeble," Chu Tseng-hung, the head of EAST, told the Wall Street Journal.
Ah-he's story isn't the only zoo horror story as of late: Also on Monday, the director of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo revealed that a rare Sumatran tiger had eaten her two cubs. Last week, a panda cub named Bao Bao living at the Smithsonian National Zoo received an electric shock after she touched a wire in her enclosure; frightened, she quickly climbed up a tree and refused to come down for more than 24 hours.
While proponents of zoos say that they inform and educate the public as well as raise much-needed funds for conservation, opponents say that at least for some species, the wild is where they belong.
After the incident with the panda cub at the Smithsonian National Zoo last week, Born Free USA CEO Adam M. Roberts told The Dodo that living in captivity can be a miserable life for an animal.
"Humans make a significant - and deliberate - mistake when they place wild animals in captivity for the visitors' amusement," he said. "And no matter how much money is spent on these artificial exhibits, they are never foolproof and accidents will happen - with painful, if not deadly, consequences."
If found guilty of negligence that caused that Ah-he's death, the owner of the zoo could face a year in jail.