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Zootopia sloth, foxes shoot to stardom in China

Updated: 2016-03-19 02:32:48

( China Daily )

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Finnick and a fennec fox that the cartoon character is based on. [File photo]

Hollywood buddy-cop comedy Zootopia continued its domination at the Chinese box office — earning more than 824 million yuan ($127 million) this week — as well as in social media, where Flash, the three-toed sloth, and a pair of foxes have captured the public's imagination.

Depicted as an inefficient government worker in Disney's latest animation hit, which opened on March 4, Flash shot to stardom in China's online communities. Netizens have mimicked the sloth's speaking style and dubbed the character's lines in their own dialects.

Clips of Flash speaking at least nine different Chinese dialects can be found online, and animated images, known as "stickers", featuring the character have been shared repeatedly across the instant messaging app WeChat.

"Flash the Sloth has stolen the spotlight from the film's two main characters!" wrote a micro blog user by the name of LeleTiantian, Xinhua reported.

Two of the characters in the animated film — the con artist Nick Wilde, a red fox, and the grumbly Finnick, a fennec fox — have inspired searches on e-commerce platforms for such foxes as pets.

Pet traders are reportedly peddling the nocturnal fennec foxes on some shopping sites, with prices ranging from 25,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan each.

One online trader said he sold a pair of the small North African desert foxes on Tuesday, according to a Huaxi Metropolis Daily report. The seller said he had the permit to sell the vaccinated foxes, which are known for their large ears and fluffy coats. Red foxes are easily found on the shopping sites and fetch a price of about 2,000 yuan.

Some animal protectionists have expressed concern about the trend. Li Hui, an expert at the Chengdu Changle Wildlife Breeding and Rescue Center, told China Daily that most of the foxes found on the pet market are captured in the wild or raised at fox breeding farms, mainly in North China.

"Red foxes and silver foxes are among the most important fur-bearing animals harvested by the fur trade," Li said. "They are not commercially domesticated, often not vaccinated and can be dangerous."

Fennec foxes are under the State's level-two protection, and there are complicated processes to get a permit to import and keep these animals, according to a report in Beijing News. "It's extremely difficult to get and raise the fox legally," Li said.

The main obstacle for pet lovers who want to raise such exotic house pets as foxes is that the country has neither an industry for domesticating them, nor a management and supervision system. "You'd better be careful of your purchase," he said.

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