From Italy comes news
that authorities have closed a circus that was trying to pass off painted dogs as panda bears. Two chow-chows had been dyed black and white, and the circus was charging money for kids to pose with them. When called out on the deception, the circus owner initially claimed that these were rare panda/dog hybrids. Now the police have charged the owner with animal abuse and defrauding customers.
My first thought was that this recalled the tradition of Tijuana Zebras
, which involved tourists in Tijuana getting charged to have their picture taken with "zebras" that were really donkeys painted with black and white stripes. Although I think pretty much everyone knew the "zebras" were really donkeys. It was just one of the things you did when you went down to Tijuana — posed with the fake zebras.
Then I remembered that story from back in 2013
about the People's Park Zoo in Henan, China which was exhibiting a Tibetan mastiff dog and claiming it was an African lion. You had to squint really hard to see the resemblance.
But a search of the site turned up an even more directly related story. Back in 2009
, the Taipei Times
reported that the pandas at the Taipei Zoo (donated to the zoo by the Chinese government) were really brown forest bears dyed black and white. The story turned out to be an April Fool's Day joke, meant to satirize the flood of fake products coming out of China, in particular the tainted milk scandal that had been in the news recently. But the story touched a nerve and was criticized for being "improper." Now it appears the story was yet another April Fool's Day prophecy (April Fool's Day jokes that become real).