Animal Grave at Chinese Zoo
March 30, 2010
Animal mass grave discovered at Chinese zoo
Newspapers in China allege that some zoos are breeding Siberian tigers to produce tiger-bone liquor
Jane Macartney in Beijing
The bodies of more than 30 animals, including rare white tigers and lions, that died of malnutrition have been found in a mass grave near a Chinese zoo.
The discovery comes just weeks after more than a dozen tigers were found to
have died of starvation at another Chinese zoo amid suggestions that the
administrators wanted to harvest their parts to make expensive – and banned – tiger-bone tonic.
The bones and remains of a quantity of animals could be seen poking through
the snow In a three-metre deep pit near the Harbin Northern Forest Zoo, in
Heilongjiang province in northeast China, state media reported.
They included two white tigers, five white lions, two leopards and five
other big cats that had died in early 2008, zoo staff told a Chinese
Zoo officials said the deaths followed a decision in 2007 to change the
animals’ diet to save money when the zoo ran into financial difficulties. A
regimen of mutton and beef was replaced with chicken. Some keepers even gave
their lions corn buns instead of meat.
Zhang Xinru, deputy head of the feeding department of the zoo, said that the
animals showed no differences in the first month and a half of the new diet.
After six months the zoo noted a sharp fall in their body weight and after
the deaths of 14 big cats in 2008 officials returned to feeding them beef
and mutton. However, the animals were still suffering from malnutrition
after a poor diet for such a long period.
Another zoo employee said that more than 80 per cent of the animals were
being fed on bean cakes to keep up their protein levels. However, the zoo
could no longer afford cakes of sufficient quality.
The employee said: “The animals eat this feed every day and many can only
just stay alive. Death is coming closer and closer.”
The zoo was so short of funds that rare golden monkeys – one of China’s most
treasured animals – were being fed only three types of fruit instead of the
six varieties they should be given and the quality was very poor.
A senior zoo official said the bodies had been buried in the pit because the
zoo could not afford to build an incinerator. The grave was regularly
disinfected and the animals had died naturally of illness or old age,
Earlier this month a zoo in northeastern Shenyang was closed after 13
endangered Siberian tigers starved to death. Some newspapers said the
animals may have been used to produce valuable tiger-bone liquor, much
prized in China as a tonic to boost virility.
Additional support for that report came from a Chinese journalist who went
undercover at the Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, where more than 1,000 of the
animals have been bred in captivity, to investigate whether tiger-bone tonic
was being sold illegally.
The journalist said he was offered tonic containing tiger bone at 2,800 yuan
(£280) a bottle or without bone parts at 780 yuan (£78) a bottle. When he
asked a zoo employee if the tonic was fake, he received the answer: “Why would we bother to sell fake tonic?”