A viral video of a bear attacking a monkey after the two fell off their bicycles at a Chinese zoo has sparked outrage among animal rights activists, but an official on Friday defended the show.
A minute-and-a-half long video surfaced this week showing the bear biting and clawing the monkey after a mock race at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park.
Keepers then pull and beat the bear with wooden sticks, prompting it to eventually release the monkey.
"The performance is pure mistreatment," Zhang Dan, co-founder of the China Animal Protection Media Saloon, was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper on Friday.
"It goes totally against the nature of the animal. But they cannot speak for themselves about their fear, pain, or unwillingness."
A park official confirmed the incident, which happened Sunday, to AFP but defended the show, saying the monkey was not injured and both animals had resumed performing the same act.
"The monkey and bear involved have been partners for more than five years and this kind of accident has never happened before," she told AFP.
"The performance was designed according to the animals' natural habits," she added. "Monkeys are good at climbing and imitating, while bears have good stamina, and this is an example of the zoo's initiative to keep them healthy through exercise."
Recent images of tigers being mistreated at parks in China's northwestern province of Jilin and the eastern province of Zhejiang have also caused anger, state media said earlier this month.
China has no laws specifically against cruelty to animals and zoo visitors and staff members are sometimes able to abuse captive creatures without sanction.
"China needs national legislation on animal abuse," the China Daily quoted Hua Ning of the International Fund for Animal Welfare as saying.
The Shanghai park has previously locked horns with activists over performances featuring animals, including acts such as monkeys climbing poles and elephants playing football.
The latest video appears to have been first posted on a Chinese video-sharing site and went global after it was posted to LiveLeak and the Huffington Post.