Outcry after poachers skin Siberian tiger

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2007, 12:00am

Outrage has greeted the news that a rare Siberian tiger has been found skinned and decapitated in its cage in a wildlife park in Yichang , Hubei province.

Police shut the park, Three Gorges Forest Wild Animal World, after the case came to light on Wednesday but refused to give more details, citing concerns of 'alerting suspects'.

Xinhua reports that the six-year-old mature female was found skinned with its head removed and the lower part of its legs cut off at the knee. Locks to the tiger cage were smashed and four home-made anaesthetics rifles were found nearby.

But Zhou Liping, head of the investigation, denied any anaesthetic rifles or needles were found, the Wuhan Morning Post reported.

Police have described the case variously as 'tragic', 'serious' and 'extremely barbarous'.

'I have never heard of a similar case ... few have heard of such a thing happening in the world,' Cao Guangyi, spokesman for the Yichang Forestry Bureau, told the Wuhan Morning Post on Saturday.

The incident, first reported by the Chang Jiang Times in Wuhan, has drawn nationwide attention, just one week after Southern Weekend reported that giant pandas, arguably the best protected endangered species on the mainland, were also being hunted down, skinned and traded on the black market.

Speculation over the identity of the tiger poachers has quickly become a focal point for numerous mainland media outlets.

According to reports, Three Gorges Forest Wild Animal World keeps more than 30 tigers, half of which are 'rented out' to other zoos, and even circuses, to cover maintenance costs.

Only three zoo keepers were employed to oversee 40 hectares of land, which accommodate more than 100 species, including tigers, lions, bears and crocodiles.

Operational costs for such a big park are estimated to be as high as 100 million yuan a year, the Three Gorges Daily reported. The total revenue of the zoo was less than half a million yuan last year.

Restaurant owners near the zoo said the park had been selling tiger-bone wine for years, according to the Wuhan Morning Post.

Mr Cao confirmed that during investigations, police confiscated more than 20 boxes of wine made from tiger bones. But he said the wine was originally bought from an authorised tiger farm in Guangxi province .

'We have been inspecting the park three times a year since 2002. We have not found any problems,' Mr Cao said.