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Animal rights in China

Zookeeper mauled to death at Chinese animal centre which sold ‘tiger wine’

Fatal attack by tiger is latest scandal to hit wildlife park that has been repeatedly accused of selling elixirs made using animal parts

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 5:45pm

A zookeeper was reportedly killed by a tiger at a controversial wildlife centre in southern China accused of selling “tiger wine”. 

The man, who was aged around 50, went to clean a tiger enclosure with a colleague at the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in Guilin, a city in the Guangxi autonomous region on Tuesday morning, according to China National Radio. 

His colleague left the man, who has not been named, alone in the enclosure at around 11am. His body was found at around 2.30pm and his family were told later that day that he had been mauled by a tiger. 

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Family members told the radio station that they went to the park on Wednesday demanding compensation and, above all, an explanation as to how he had died as they had not been given any evidence to back up the zoo’s claims.

The man’s nephew, surnamed Zhuge, questioned the zoo’s account of how his uncle had been killed, saying: “Did he die from inaction? Was he dead when he was discovered? Why was he not taken to hospital immediately?”

In 2004, another keeper at the zoo was killed when he was attacked by a lion at feeding time.

After the latest death Professor Zhou Fang, from the animal science and technology institute of Guangxi University, said that the park should undergo a third-party evaluation to ensure the facility has proper safety equipment. However, he warned that such expertise was hard to find in the country.

Chinanews.com reported that the park has been closed since late 2017 for remodelling, and in recent years has been building additional facilities such as a five-star hotel and Chinese medicine research centres and production facilities.

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The park has become notorious for selling traditional “medicines” such as wine apparently made using bones and other body parts from tigers despite questions about the legality of the trade.

It has been the subject of two exposes by the South China Morning Post in 2007 and again in 2016, when reporters found dozens of animals in an emaciated state packed into poorly constructed enclosures.

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Thepaper.cn reported that in 2013 an investigation by state broadcaster CCTV accused the park of trying to skirt the ban on sale of tiger products by changing the labelling of its wines, substituting the word for “tiger” (hu) with the similar sounding word for “tonic” (bu).

According to the exposes, tiger skeletons are steeped in alcohol to produce expensive elixirs, which are still sold around China for high prices. The sale of tiger bones has been illegal on mainland China since 1993. 

The animal centre advertises itself as home to thousands of wild animals, including over 1,300 tigers, 400 black bears, 200 African lions, as well as monkeys, birds and crocodiles.

The zoo refused to answer questions from the radio station about its safety procedures and facilities.