Hainan theme park denies plan to serve up tiger meat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 December, 2002, 12:00am

A theme park on Hainan Island has strongly denied reports that it will be serving tiger meat.

Officials of Sanya Maitree Concept - the Sino-Thai joint venture behind the Sanya Love World theme park - said reports that the meat would be served when the park's population of tigers had grown were completely baseless.

Sanya Love World is scheduled to open next year. At least three mainland newspapers reported last week that visitors to the park would be able to feed the tigers, photograph them and then eat them once the breeding programme bore fruit.

Last Tuesday, 100 Bengal tigers and 2,000 crocodiles were flown in on a jumbo jet from Thailand to Sanya, where the theme park is located. Xinhua reported that the animals had been 'transported to a special centre in Tiandu county in suburban Sanya in 55 military trucks'. A report in the China Daily said the tigers and crocodiles were imported from Si Racha Tiger Zoo - one of the largest zoos in Thailand.

The Nanjing-based Jiangnan Times also reported that the park planned to breed 1,000 tigers within two years. It said the company indicated that tiger meat would be sold to tourists to finance the expensive breeding programme.

However, officials at Maitree Concept on Friday denied there were plans to sell tiger meat, adding they were considering taking legal action to protect their reputation.

'Tiger meat for food is absolutely a groundless rumour,' a company statement said, adding that the press reports had caused 'strong indignation' from the State Forestry Bureau and the Thai government.

It said the park's 100 tigers would be used only for breeding and research. 'No commercial activities are involved,' it added.

Hainan officials had already denied they would allow tiger meat to be served, which would be illegal under Chinese laws. They also said the theme park was part of a programme to raise public awareness of the importance of protecting wildlife.