Surprise in Henan as man takes a leisurely park stroll – with a tiger

Unusual sight on closer inspection reveals touching story of friendship between zookeeper and animal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 1:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 1:15pm

An old man gave residents of Jiaozuo, Henan province, a fright on Tuesday when he walked a tiger through a park, Dahe Daily reported.

The man was spotted in the afternoon leading the young tiger around Jiaozuo City People’s Park as if it were a dog, and readers immediately alerted the newspaper to the fact.

The daily later discovered that the man, surnamed Hu, was in fact a feeder at the park zoo -- and in the process unfolded the story of a park keeper who was devotedly teaching a lame tiger how to walk.

“The tiger is only six months old,” he said. “It was born with a disease and its two back legs were deformed.”

Hu said the animal could only crawl when it was born, which experts thought was due to lack of calcium, so he took it for walks to strengthen its legs.

Due to his efforts such as massaging the tiger every day for more than three months, the tiger can now walk with ease, he said.

When some passersby tried to take photos, the animal hid behind his handler. One onlooker asked, “Is it a dyed dog?”

The park keeper said tigers were a grade-one protected species, and hunting and trading them was banned in China. He noted that the park had a permit to keep the animal.