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Investigations underway on early deaths of Siberian tigers in South Korea and China zoos

Investigations underway on early deaths of Siberian tigers in South Korea and China zoos
May 14, 2024

An investigation is currently being conducted to determine the cause of early deaths of 11 Siberian tigers at Seoul Grand Park zoo over the past five years, while a wild animal park in Fuyang, East China’s Anhui Province announced yesterday it was suspending operations for three days, following reports of multiple abnormal deaths of animals in the park, including 20 Siberian tigers in recent years.

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are classified as a critically endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, an inventory of the global conservation status and extinction risk of biological species.

Seoul Grand Park is located in in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province and The Korea Times is reporting that a group of experts from an external organisation is looking into whether any rules were violated regarding animal management there in recent years.

Following complaints about the tiger deaths on a petition website, an official responded by noting “a separate investigation will be conducted if the results find that violations of guidelines for breeding management or any other rules were related directly to the deaths.

 “We would also strengthen monitoring and medical checkups as part of our effort to reduce the number of disease-related deaths.”

This move comes two weeks after the death of Taebaek, a 6-year-old Siberian tiger. According to Seoul Grand Park, Taebaek died at its zoo due to critical health conditions suspected to be related to liver disease. Zoo officials said they plan to conduct an autopsy to determine the precise cause of death.

Born in May 2018 alongside siblings Baekdu, Halla and Geumgang, Taebaek appeared to be in good health until recently, when a significant decrease in food intake was observed. During a medical examination on 15th April, signs of diminished biliary tract and liver function were noted.

Taebaek was the 11th Siberian tiger to have died prematurely from disease or accident before the age of 15 at the zoo since 2019.

Taebaek's death also marked the third death of a Siberian tiger at the zoo within the span of a year. In May last year, a one-year-old female tiger named Parang died after contracting the feline panleukopenia virus, and a 10-year-old male tiger named Suho died from heart disease and heat stroke in August last year.

The average lifespan for Siberian tigers is known to be 16 to 18 years; those in captivity tend to live several years longer, with some living up to 25 years.

The seemingly premature deaths of Siberian tigers in South Korea’s Zoo is matched by unfortunately by deaths of Siberian tigers in captivity in China’s animal parks with East China’s Anhui Province suspending operations after abnormal deaths of animals and investigations underway.

A wild animal park in Fuyang, East China’s Anhui Province announced yesterday it was suspending operations for three days, following reports of multiple abnormal deaths of animals in the park, including 20 Siberian tigers in recent years. The reports have sparked public concern and discussions on animal protection, with many calling for better treatment of animals.

According to The Global Times, from October 2019 to March 2023, a total of 10 Siberian tigers died, while from June 2020 to August 2023, a total of 11 Siberian tiger cubs were born, with only one surviving.

After media revealed the incidents, the topic triggered a wide discussion on Chinese social media, reaching more than 43 million views on Chinese X-like Sina Weibo, with many netizens calling for a thorough investigation and better treatment for animals.

One netizen shared “Looking at the picture is heartbreaking. These animals should be living freely in the vast grasslands and forests. They are living in dark and cramped areas. How can they grow well in such conditions? If we can’t take care of them properly, we should find another way. If this continues, what will be the fate of the remaining animals?”

The animals live in a bad environment. The illegal breeding must be seriously investigated and punished, another said.

Following the media reports, Fuyang city authorities have established an investigation team to conduct a comprehensive probe into the deaths of wild animals. The follow-up investigation and results will be promptly disclosed to the public, the Fuyang authorities said yesterday.

The Global Times reports that the park is a privately owned zoo operated by Anhui Qicai Wildlife Park Co. In April 2018, the company signed a contract with Fuyang Tengfei Domestication Performance Co, under which the latter transferred 33 Siberian tigers, five African lions, 11 bears, three camels, and other animals to Qicai for a total price of 2.543 million yuan ($351,559).

There are currently about 60 wild Siberian tigers in China, compared to about 20 in the 1990s, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration in July 2023.

China’s Law on the Protection of Wildlife states that living conditions for artificially bred wild animals should be in accordance with their natural habits, and ensure they have necessary space for activities, reproduction, and health. The facilities and technologies used for breeding should be appropriate for the species and scale of development, meeting relevant technical standards and disease prevention requirements.

Image. Credit: Seoul Grand Park 

About the author

Karen Sweaney

Co-founder and Editor, Australasian Leisure Management

Artist, geoscientist and specialist writer on the leisure industry, Karen Sweaney is Editor and co-founder of Australasian Leisure Management.

Based in Sydney, Australia, her specific areas of interest include the arts, entertainment, the environment, fitness, tourism and wellness.

She has degrees in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney and Geological Oceanography from UNSW.

Read more from this author

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