One of the most popular stories to come out of Mid-Autumn Festival is not about record-setting travel numbers or cultural festivals. Instead, the story receiving more ink in Yunnan — and being forwarded furiously on social media across China — concerns a missing, and possibly kidnapped, raccoon.
The animal was found to have disappeared on the morning of September 21 following heavy holiday attendance at the Yunnan Wild Animals Zoo (云南野生动物园). A worker conducting his daily headcount in the raccoon enclosure identified 47 of the animals, one short of the expected 48.
Two dozen zoo employees then searched the "Raccoon Family" (浣熊家) exhibit for burrows and damaged fences while also checking to see if the electrified fence surrounding the pen was functioning. All was found to be in good repair.
Ideas were proposed and debated regarding the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the raccoon — known to zoo officials as Diandian (点点). Had she climbed a tree and then fallen outside the fence? Was she involved in a fight with other raccoons and forced to flee?
Zoo staff finally concluded it was possible one of the estimated 8,000 people who visited the raccoon attraction the previous day could have absconded with Diandian. The police were contacted and an investigation into the animal's disappearance is ongoing. The public is being encouraged to help locate the raccoon and a 10,000 yuan reward has been offered to anyone who can provide details of Diandian's whereabouts.
Only five days before Diandian's disappearance, the "Raccoon Family" exhibit opened at the zoo for the first time. It was touted by the Kunming press as being the first exhibition of its kind in China to offer the public "direct and intimate contact with a raccoon family."
Dozens, if not hundreds, of photos are now making their rounds on microblogs showing visitors to the park feeding the animals everything from whole watermelons to moon cakes. The exhibit's online popularity has led accounts of Diandian's possible kidnapping to go viral and the story, somewhat improbably, has become national news.
The Yunnan Wild Animals Zoo is no stranger to bizarre animal mismanagement. In 2006, the zoo opened a wildly popular 'tiger-fishing' attraction. Visitors were encouraged to buy raw meat and dangle it above hungry tigers from bamboo poles. Four years later, a pack of dogs inexplicably gained access to some zoo enclosures and went on a bloody rampage. Six rare sika deer were killed and an emu was mauled.
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