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Year of Tiger shame

As we celebrate the year of the Tiger, it’s ironic to see such hideous treatment of this endangered New Year icon in China’s safari parks and zoos. 

Our own visits, and that of journalists, show that the parks continue to cash in on an illegal trade in tiger bone wine (and other body parts) – laughing in the face of regulations that have made it illegal to trade in any part of the tiger since 1993. 

Also abused for entertainment, the tigers are drugged, de-clawed, de-toothed, and chained to concrete slabs, as visitors are persuaded to part with their dollars for the delight of seeing their children sitting on these poor creatures’ backs. 

During the recent Lunar Festival celebrations, the parks invented ever new and revolting schemes to make money. Chimelong Safari Park, which Irene, Rainbow, Dave and I visited towards the end of last year (together with celebrity Australian chef Simon Bryant), has now apparently “trained” its tigers to draw Chinese characters for good luck. A paint brush is thrust into the animal’s mouth, while the tiger “paints” New Year messages onto paper, which will bring “happiness and fortune” for those that stump up a fee. 

A two-year-old would recognise that the stooped head, flattened ears and terrified demeanour show an animal not completely at home under the menacing posture of the trainers. 

These photos, taken from a TV screen, were sent to us by a supporter who was appalled by the cruelty:




Huge banner pictures around the park show that it is supported by Chinese celebrities, such as Hong Kong star Dicky Cheung Wai Kin. How proud we are that our own Chinese celebrities like Karen Mok, Gigi Fu, Ren Xianqi, Zhao Zhongxiang, Zhang Yue, Baihua, Xin, Gao Yuanyuan, Jiang Yiyan, Sun Li, Deng Chao, Yu Kewei, Guan Zhe and the Fengyun Boys are loud and proud in their calls for China’s wild-animal parks to be cruelty-free. 

A new fad at other zoos is to invite the public to pay for the privilege of touching a chained tiger’s rump – a play on the belief from ancient times that such an act proved your bravery. (This photo is courtesy of Sina.com.cn.)

And at Changsha Zoo in Hunan Province, they are currently cashing in on selling tigers’ whiskers for luck. Apparently these lucky tokens are said to ward off evil and are especially helpful for drivers and children. “The whiskers are not cut or plucked from the beasts,” said a zoo employee, but are collected after being shed. "Fifteen-centimetre whiskers are sold for 100 yuan (US$14.65), while shorter, thinner ones range from 50 to 30 yuan.” 

Anyone who has cats knows that the odd whisker can be found shed around the house if your eyes are good enough to spot one – but enough found lying around from the tigers to support an obviously roaring trade? Give me a break.

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