11 Siberian tigers starve to death at Chinese zoo

11 Siberian tigers starve to death at Chinese zoo

Eleven Siberian tigers died of starvation in north-eastern China's Liaoning province after a cash-strapped zoo fed them only chicken bones, state media said Friday, DPA reported.

The 11 tigers died over the past three months at the privately run Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo, the China Daily newspaper quoted Liu Xiaoqiang, a local wildlife protection official, as saying.

Liu said the tigers all died from "malnutrition rather than infectious diseases," the newspaper reported.

Because of financial problems, the zoo had "only fed the tigers on cheap chicken bones," Liu was quoted as saying.

"Many privately owned zoos are under financial pressure, and most of them fail to feed the animals well," he said.

Liu said "legal loopholes" meant that it was difficult for wildlife protection officers to take action against private zoos.

The conditions at the Shenyang Wild Animal Zoo were made worse by a local work safety order to cage the tigers after two of them mauled a keeper in November, he said.

The local government had provided food daily to the zoo since the attack in November, but many of the tigers "already had intestinal infections or kidney failure caused by the lack of food," Liu said.

Two more Siberian tigers were shot dead during the rescue of the keeper in November and about 20 Siberian tigers are left, the newspaper said.

It said the zoo keeps about 500 tigers from nearly 50 subspecies, about half the population it had in 2000.

Fewer than 500 Siberian tigers, also know as Amur tigers, are believed to remain in the wild, most of them in Russia's far east.

China has about 800 Siberian tigers in captivity, the newspaper said.

The global wild tiger population is estimated at 3,200, down from 20,000 in the 1980s.

In a report this week, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Wildlife Conservation Society said wild tigers were "lingering on the edge of extinction."

"Within the last decade, wild tiger habitats have decreased by 40 per cent with the species now occupying only 7 per cent of its historical range around the world," the report said.

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