Big cats go hungry in circus row

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The Independent Online
Thirty-one animals from the Russian State Circus are threatened with starvation as a result of a seemingly intractable dispute between the circus and the Shenzhen Safari Park, on the Chinese side of the border with Hong Kong, where the circus has recently ended a three-year contract.

The South China Morning Post reports that some of the animals are already malnourished - "tigers and lions continually groaning, roaring and banging the bars of their cages for food".

The safari park is refusing to provide food following the breakdown of negotiations over the repatriation of the circus. The circus's officials were compelled to spend their own money to buy the daily requirement of some 227kg of food but now they cannot afford to. They also allege that the Chinese officials are unwilling to provide assistance to sick animals or even to a circus staffer who was bitten by a hungry monkey.

There are 15 big cats in the circus, with six monkeys and 10 horses.The big cats are now in their fourth day without meat.

The Hong Kong RSPCA says it will see what it can do to help the animals once it has established the scope of the problem. Other animal welfare groups are also looking into the matter.

The details of the dispute are not entirely clear. The safari park authorities say they are prepared to send the circus back to Moscow but the circus has made "unreasonable requests". The circus claims it is owed an additional pounds 24,000 to cover the expenses of the journey home.