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Internet outrage at Manila Zoo

PEOPLE look at an elephant in Manila Zoo, one of the few new animals in the 52-year-old institution, on July 14, 2011. Philippine President Benigno Aquino's office has called on government agencies to look into the zoo after a blog from a college student about showing starving and sick animals at the zoo kicked off an Internet furore. Amid the widespread concern about the facility, Manila Zoo officials said the pictures of poorly-treated animals were at least three years old and that conditions had improved.(MNS photo)

MANILA, July 14, 2011 (AFP) – A college student’s blog about apparently mistreated animals at the Manila Zoo has provoked an instant Internet furor, forcing the Philippine president to step in and call for action.

After 20-year-old Nix de Pano’s blog entry on Tuesday showing photos of starving animals was reposted on other sites, “Manila Zoo” suddenly became a global trending topic on the microblogging site Twitter.

Philippine models with huge Internet followings, one of the country’s best filmmakers and a celebrity Manila tour guide were among those to voice their outrage on Twitter, prompting action from the highest level of government.

“We share the concern expressed by concerned citizens over the condition in which animals are kept in the Manila Zoo,” President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, told reporters.

He said government agencies had been ordered to look into the welfare of the animals at the 52-year-old zoo, which bills itself as Asia’s oldest.

Although animal welfare groups have been campaigning for years to close or improve conditions at the zoo, the issue only went viral on the Internet this week following the blog from de Pano, a multi-media arts student in Manila.

Her blog entry, which used old photos taken from other sources on the Internet, showed animals with untreated wounds and their ribs poking through their skin.

In an e-mail to AFP, de Pano said she was “overwhelmed” by the attention her blog had generated.

“In just a matter of two days so much has happened. Social media is powerful. There is true power in spreading the word,” she said.

The Asian campaign manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Rochelle Regodon, said the Internet was proving an important ally in their efforts to close the zoo.

“We are thankful and encouraged by the overflowing support of people who have tweeted and re-tweeted about the horrible conditions at the Manila Zoo,” she said.

But Manila Zoo’s director, Deng Manimbo, said the blog’s photos were at least three years old and that the animals were now well fed and cared for.

“The animals are in good condition,” he told AFP, but added that he was happy the extra attention may lead to more people wanting to help the zoo.

De Pano said she had never been to the zoo before posting her blog and that conditions were better than expected when she did go on Thursday.

“There were some animals that were depressing to look at, and there are still trash problems, but the condition of the zoo has definitely improved,” she said. ■

 

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