China's Shenyang Zoo closed after tigers starve to death

Employee accuses bosses of making drink from bones of endangered animal

It is the Chinese Year of the Tiger but it has been far from auspicious. China's Shenyang Zoo has closed after 11 Siberian tigers died of starvation or were shot this year amid murky tales of body parts being used for traditional medicinal remedies.

The government has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of the rare Siberian tigers, of which there are only an estimated 300 left in the wild, 50 of them in China. But what has already played out before an enraged Chinese audience is a story of terrible neglect and poorly financed zoos.

The 11 tigers died after they were fed nothing but chicken bones at Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo, according to Chinese media reports this week. Another three listless big cats are shedding fur and have lost their appetites, the Xinhua news agency reported. A further two were shot dead after mauling a zoo worker in November 2009. The tigers are not the only victims of a cash crisis at the mainly privately owned zoological park. Twenty-six animals from 15 species have died this year, including four camels, a lion, a brown bear and a Mongolian horse. In all, the number of animals in the zoo has dropped by half in a decade, according to Xinhua.

Rumours swirled immediately that the tigers had been killed for their bones, which are prized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Every year there are widespread illegal sales of tiger bones, penises and other parts because many believe that tiger parts can increase potency or cure diseases. A zoo worker, quoted by Xinhua, said the remains of the dead animal were used to make tiger-bone liquor that "was used to serve important guests".

But the zoo's managers denied anything untoward had happened and had allowed in experts to carry out tests and report the results to the authorities. "The tiger meat, skins and bones are kept in storage freezers," said Wu Xi, manager of the zoo. Officials ordered the zoo to close pending the result of an investigation, according to China's Global Times.

China banned the harvesting of tiger bones in 1993 and mentions of them were deleted from traditional medicine dictionaries. But tiger parts remain highly prized as an exceptional medical resource – tiger urine is used to treat eye infections, for example, and bones to treat rheumatism.

More than 5,000 tigers are held captive on farms and wildlife parks across China and there is an ongoing argument about allowing their bones to be used on a commercial basis.

Tigers are one of the most threatened large beasts on the planet, having slipped in numbers from over 100,000 in the early part of the last century to less than 3,200 remaining in the wild. Conservationists say they continue to be poached for their skins, and almost every part of a tiger's body can be used for decorative or traditional medicinal purposes. Tigers now survive in tiny areas and their plight is one of the main topics being discussed by conservationists at a meeting in Doha of signatories to the 200-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (Cites). China signed the pact in 1981.

"Although the tiger has been prized throughout history, and is a symbol of incredible importance in many cultures and religions, it is now literally on the verge of extinction," said Cites secretary general Willem Wijnstekers in a statement this week.

"2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger and the International Year of Biodiversity; this must be the year in which we reverse the trend. If we don't, it will be to our everlasting shame," he said.

Shenyang's local government pledged seven million yuan (£680,000) to help save the remaining animals after news of the tiger deaths broke last week. Zookeepers have cleaned and installed heating in the tiger cages, given the animals nutritional supplements and started feeding them 2.5kg of beef and two hens per day, Xinhua said.

Suggested Topics
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home