A schoolboy who climbed over a fence into a crocodile enclosure and taunted the animals with sticks and a catapult was dragged into the water and eaten.The nine-year-old, whose family name was given as Liu, and three friends sneaked into the crocodile park at the Silver Beach holiday resort at Beihai in the southwestern Guangxi region on Friday.
The children shot at the animals with catapults and beat them with sticks.
The official Xinhua news agency said: â€œOne of the irritated crocodiles bit Liuâ€™s clothes and dragged him into the water where he was eaten by a swarm of crocodiles.â€ His companions then raised the alarm.
Investigators searched for the missing boy and decided to check inside the crocodiles. Snipers used pork to lure them out of their pool and shot dead the first animal to lumber on to the bank.
Inside it they found human remains that were confirmed to be those of the boy.
The crocodiles were still being bred, even though their performances at the park were stopped several years ago and the pool had been sealed off for auction.
The parkâ€™s owner had hired a keeper to take care of the crocodiles, but it was unclear why the man was not at the enclosure when the boys broke in. The manager and the keeper were being questioned by police.
Animal welfare has long been a low priority in China, where many zoos have for years provided bare and often squalid pens for animals that spend their entire existence in the public eye. Even at the Beijing Zoo, the prized pandas must now be cordoned off well out of reach of visitors. People have in the past tossed food wrapped in plastic bags into their pens which destroyed the digestive system of at least one of the endangered animals.
The latest scandal to attract public attention came last year in Shanghai when a city zoo cancelled its â€œAnimal Olympicsâ€ after shows featuring boxing matches between kangaroos and their keepers, bears fighting and riding bicycles and an elephant tug-of-war drew unwelcome publicity. The event was cancelled after animal rights groups posted reports and pictures on the internet.