The decision to close a 24-year-old circus in Guangzhou Zoo in south China's Guangdong province has stirred controversy.
Guangzhou Zoo said it had closed the circus show since Sept. 1, and the area would be used to build a scientific exhibition center.
The venue was contracted to a circus operator from eastern China's Anhui Province in 1993, which has performed there ever since, said Huang Yingzhi, head of the circus.
"We still have about 70 animals, monkeys, bears, tigers, gorillas and parrots. We received notice for the shutdown on Aug. 14, but we have been negotiating with the zoo to stay," he said.
Huang and his employees refused to leave, insisting there was no reason to close the circus.
Over the weekend, the circus was still selling tickets and there were a few dozen people watching the show, where monkeys rode bikes, gorillas played drums and bears did headstands on high-rise bars.
"Audience numbers have not declined, and our place is popular. More than 13 million people have watched the shows over the past 24 years," Huang said.
"As much as we do not want to leave, we probably have to because the zoo has made the announcement public. We are still discussing with the zoo as to our future after the closure. The zoo has offered to help transport the animals," Huang said.
Circus shows have been opposed by animal rights advocates as they can involve animal abuse.
"As an adult, I get no comfort from watching animals being humanized and forced to act, and I don't think there is any educational value for children," said a Guangzhou resident surnamed Liu. "There are other ways to get children to learn about animals."
The zoo's management said the contract with the circus had expired and the venue would be transformed into a scientific exhibition center.
"Visitors can learn knowledge about animals at the center in a respectful way," said Lin Xingrong, director of the zoo office. "Our aim is to show animals in the most natural state possible. In recent years, we have installed facilities in the zoo to improve the activities and living conditions of the animals."
Several visitors expressed regret over the cancellation of animal shows at the zoo.
"Animal shows bring excitement to children. After the show is shut down, the animals probably have nowhere to go and who knows what misery they will suffer. At least this circus was quite popular," said a visitor to the zoo.