Releasing Captive Tigers

Releasing Tigers - Page 1: Releasing Captive-Bred Species | 2 & 3: Issues Specific To The Tiger |
4 to 9: Xiongsheng Bear & Tiger Entertainment City | 10&11: Tiger Moon Sanctuary


Sunday Morning Post, Hong Kong - 28th November 1999 

by Cortlan Bennett

The tigers are fit and well-fed at the Xiongsheng Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in the scenic city of Guilin, Guangxi province. But their fate, both barbarous and illegal, wrenches the stomach. For at this purported "endangered species sanctuary", 15 minutes' drive from the city that is one of China's most popular tourist destinations, the big cats are fed live domestic animals in a cheering coliseum of bloodthirsty onlookers - only to be served up themselves to Taiwanese and local tourists who wash the tiger meat down with tiger-bone and bear gall-bladder wine.

This spectacle is carried out under the guise of rehabilitating the park's more than 200 protected tigers for eventual release into the wild. The open sale of products of endangered tigers and bears, however, is purely for profit. The events have outraged not only local and international animal rights organisations, but also the central Government, which has told the park three times in the past two weeks to cease its illegal sale of endangered species and brutal treatment of animals in its care.

The Animals Asia Foundation:

The park came to the notice of Animals Asia Foundation executive director Jill Robinson, who works in both Hong Kong and Beijing to fight animal cruelty and who, by a strange twist, was invited to the park's opening in April last year. She later discovered the name of Animals Asia and its sponsor, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, being falsely used to promote the park and condone its activities.

The park is not the only one offering such shows. A Sunday Morning Post investigation in 1995 of Shenzhen Safari Park at Xili Lake found tigers being thrown live chickens by grinning visitors. After that practice was banned, fighting horse shows were introduced in 1997 to woo back lost audiences.

In June, Beijing drafted the Regulation for Nationwide Wildlife Parks. And after a visit last month to the Guilin park by Ms Robinson and Animals Asia project director Boris Chiao, she obtained a pledge this month from Zhang Jianlong, director of the Department of Wild Fauna and Flora Conservation in the State Forestry Administration, that live animal feeding had been stopped and the park would be further investigated.

Notified by the Post of the barbarity seen by reporters last Tuesday, she said: "It is an embarrassment not only to us and all our efforts to stop this cruel and illegal treatment of animals, but it is humiliating to the central Government which only last week declared it had put an end to the live feeding of animals as entertainment in such parks, and has shown great concern in going to lengths to stamp out the illegal trade in endangered species.

Repeated warnings:

"What the park has continued to do - despite repeated warnings not to - is to breach international and Chinese regulations and direct central Government instructions. This is just a slap in the face to all concerned. We are very upset and still trying to understand how it can continue to get away with it."

Yet it does. Just an hour's flight from Hong Kong, Tiger Mountain, as the park is known, is off the main highway that links Guilin airport to the Guangxi provincial capital, Nanning. Though not shown on English maps, the park and its gruesome forms of "family entertainment" are openly touted on signboards and through local travel and tourist services within the city. Ironically, the park has pictures of US President Bill Clinton when he was in Guilin last year, where he made an impassioned plea to save the environment.

Privately funded, the safari park claims to be "the largest base for science, breeding and wildlife of tigers and black bears in the world". Owner Zhou Weisen said his "team of breeding experts" aimed to produce 500 tigers by the millennium (numbers have already doubled from 100 to 200 in the past 18 months), while signs inside the park proclaim: "We are helping save endangered species."

Sacrificial circus:

In reality, this "scientific park" is a sacrificial circus where juvenile tigers and lions are trained by collar and leash to attack farm animals, then slaughtered once they have grown old or sick. Their meat is then served up in the park's restaurant, and their bones crushed and fermented into 500-yuan (HK$450) bottles of wine brewed and sold on the premises with an official export certificate.

(Continued Page 8)

Releasing Tigers - Page 1: Releasing Captive-Bred Species | 2 & 3: Issues Specific To The Tiger |
4 to 9: Xiongsheng Bear & Tiger Entertainment City | 10&11: Tiger Moon Sanctuary

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