Tigers getting used to captivity

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 1997, 12:00am

I refer to the United Press International (UPI) report on Liu Xinchen and the Hengdaohezi tiger breeding facility, headlined, 'Tiger breeding project on brink of extinction' (South China Morning Post, December 23).

A reading of the Sunday Morning Post, on August 1, 1993 (story headlined, 'The shame of China's tiger trap'), reveals that the Hengdaohezi facility was founded to supply tiger bones and body parts for the tiger trade, but its funding was pulled in 1993, due to international pressure on Beijing.

The UPI article claims that Mr Liu's present project is 'aimed at re-introducing [tigers] in the wild' and notes that they are being 'trained to feed on live prey such as chickens and cows'. The latest issue of Cat News, the newsletter of the Cat Specialist Group of the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), discusses this very facility: ' . . . a project in China, where Amur tigers in a safari park are being fed cattle and chickens from vehicles in a public spectacle. Clearly, the tigers will have a taste for livestock and will associate people and vehicles with food, thus becoming totally unsuitable for release in the wild'.

While Siberian tigers are, as reported, nearly extinct in the wild, they are the most numerous subspecies in captivity. The Hengdaohezi centre's breeding activities are merely contributing to a larger captive population of this subspecies and, based on the UPI's brief article, failing to make useful contributions to their re-introduction into the wild.