Eleven rare Siberian tigers have died at a wildlife park in a startling case that activists say hints at unsavory practices among some zoos and animal farms in China: They are overbreeding endangered animals in the hopes of making illicit profit on their carcasses.
The deaths of the tigers occurred in the past three months at the zoo in China’s frigid northeast, officials and state media said Friday. Reports said the tigers starved to death, having been fed nothing but chicken bones, while a zoo manager said unspecified diseases killed the animals.
Either way, the animals had been ill-kept and ill-fed. The Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo has struggled financially, even withholding pay from staff, said a woman in charge of corporate planning for the zoo who would only give her surname, Wang. The zoo had been up for auction for some time without any bidders, she said… The deaths underscore conflicting signals in China’s attempts to save its dwindling number of tigers. While extensive conservation efforts are under way, animal protection groups say zoos and wildlife parks may be deliberately breeding more animals than they can afford, hoping to sell off the carcasses onto a black market where tiger parts fetch a high price for use in traditional medicines and liquor.