Wayne’s World: In the zoo, a mini zoo, a lyin’ sleeps tonight

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Wayne Chan

By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly

They say that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” If that is indeed the case, the Chinese are flattered up the wazoo.

Beyond the fake Rolexes and the fake Louis Vuittons comes the latest trend in counterfeiting in China — animals. China is now counterfeiting animals.  You have to appreciate the audacity of it, right?

It turns out that a mom and her little boy were visiting a small zoo in Louhe, in the central province of Henan. As they walked up to the “African Lion” exhibit, they saw a large animal with a burly mane with massive paws sitting in the enclosure.  And as they got closer to the cage, the massive animal raised his mighty head and … barked.

No, it didn’t roar. It didn’t growl. It barked. There was no “Lion King” moment. More like a “Lyin’ King” moment. Or at least a “Clifford, the big red dog” moment.

This “Lion” was actually a Tibetan Mastiff, a large dog with a burly mane and massive paws.  The mother of the boy, a Ms. Liu, obviously perturbed by the situation, said, “The zoo is absolutely trying to cheat us. They are trying to disguise dogs as lions.”

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Photo by Kenneth Cole Schneider

Now hold on, Ms. Liu!  While it seems you and your son were evidently not actually in the presence of the “King of the Jungle” (What would it  actually be? King of the living room floor? King of the backyard lawn?), the zoo operators weren’t actually disguising the dog to look like a lion. A Tibetan Mastiff actually looks like a lion (so long as you’re standing 500 feet away, are near sighted, visiting at night with the lights off, and a supermodel is standing right next to it).

I call it “creative marketing”. They apparently had the dog. It does have a large mane with huge paws. If they were operating not only as a zoo but as a pet hotel as well, they’d be getting paid twice for the same animal — brilliant!

They didn’t stop there. They used dogs in place of wolves, a white fox instead of a leopard, and a nutria (a large rat-like rodent) in place of a snake.  I have to ask — what kind of bizarro snakes do they have over there?

Now, I’m all for truth in advertising, but what was the real damage here? If this dog hadn’t barked and the mother and his boy left none the wiser, what’s the harm? If instead of barking, this “lion” rolled over, walked on it’s hind legs, and could fetch, the boy would have thought he had just seen the most talented lion that ever lived.  No harm, no foul, I say.

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Let’s not put all the blame on this little zoo. We’re all just as guilty of counterfeiting animals as they are. We’re just a little more artful about it. Ask any 8-year old boy what they like about lions, and they’re likely to say that they love to hear them roar, and how they can dance, talk, or sing the latest Elton John hit song.  If you go to your local zoo and they don’t do any of that, do you sue the zoo or Disney?

It’s really not hard to see how they got from “We don’t have a lion” to “Wait a minute, what about Fido?” For any of you who have dogs, try this little trick. (I’ve done this with our golden retriever, Allie.) With two hands, gently stretch the skin around her face back — instant greyhound. Stretch it in the opposite direction, now you’ve got a shar-pei, worth two-three times what a golden retriever is worth.

Instead of a family pet, with a little scotch tape and some hair pins, I could be sitting on a gold mine. (end)

Wayne Chan can be contacted at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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