More Bad News for China’s Big Cats

Some more tragic news about tigers in China this month…(and somehow this blog is regularly churning out posts about tigers and I’m not sure how this happened since I’m not particularly an avid animal rights activist, and yes…I do wear fur). But anyway, since my last post on the dwindling tiger population on account of the Chinese taste for a little something called “tiger tonics,” there have been 2 very disturbing events in the news involving these big cats.

Emaciated Tiger at the Xiongshen Tiger Zoo

Last week Shanghai Daily reported that a tiger-keeper at the Shanghai zoo was attacked and killed by a male Bengal tiger while the keeper was cleaning the tiger’s cage. Was the tiger deranged? A natural-born killer? A beast? The answer is no. It was simply starving.

The staff at Shanghai zoo admitted that the animal had not been fed the previous day or the morning of the killing because, according to staff, they don’t feed the tigers every day in order to “help with their digestive systems.” So basically this zoo denies food to a full-grown male tiger (who in the wild will consume about 20 pounds of meat or more per day) for a few days to help with a little heartburn? Rrright. And I bet that zoo keeper hadn’t had anything to eat in the past two days either. Wait, he had? GASP!…but what about his digestive system!

Unfortunately, this story was just the harbinger of a far more devastating tiger tale to come. Today it was reported that at least 11 Siberian tigers were found dead in a zoo in Shenyang, Northeastern China. The cause of their demise? Starvation. The Times reports that two years ago the zoo ran out of money to support the tigers and so the animals were only fed a meager meal of one or two chicken carcasses over the past few weeks. Come on! These are tigers here, not a bunch of heroin chic models. Chicken bones every few weeks will cause death by starvation even for the Nicole Richie’s of the world, let alone 200 pound beasts.

This story just pains me because it was so easily preventable. With only 20 wild Siberian tigers left in China, surely animal protection groups would have paid top dollar to have these animals fed and transported to more humane conditions.

Oh, but wait…under China’s “Property Law” zoo owners have the right to keep their animals under the conditions that they deem fit and animal protection authorities have no right to interfere. Moreover, the “Wild Animal Protection Law” does not stipulate any punishment for irresponsible private zoo owners who abuse their animals. (Seems like China might want to amend their “Animal Protection” law to…you know, something that might actually protect animals).

So why is this “Year of the Tiger” in China just so downright horrible for real tigers? I think this comment on the The Times online post sums it up nicely:

Very tragic and preventable. I’m sure there are a plethora of zoos elsewhere that would have been happy to take care of the tigers and pay for their transport. But the demand for rare animal parts [in China]…trumps all other concerns, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, I think he’s right. The great demand for tiger tonics and tiger trinkets within China simply outweighs the demand to save these lovely animals. Hopefully, with all the recent coverage that this issue has been receiving by the foreign press (New York Times, The Daily Mail, The Times), China’s authorities will be pressured to step in and make sure that these cats are around for the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.

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