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    Freezers Full of Dead Tigers Found Inside Chinese Zoo

    Fuyang Wildlife Park is accused of keeping animals in horrifying conditions, leading to dozens of unnatural deaths.
    May 14, 2024#animals#welfare

    A wildlife park in east China’s Anhui province is facing accusations of keeping animals in horrifying conditions, causing more than a dozen Siberian tigers to die of unnatural causes.

    The shocking investigation — undertaken by a magazine owned by the state-run China News Service — has sparked outrage in China since its publication on Monday, leading to calls for the park’s owners to face legal consequences.

    Fuyang Wildlife Park is accused of a litany of malpractices, including illegally breeding protected species, selling animals without a license, keeping animals in inhumane conditions, allowing many to die due to neglect, and failing to dispose of their bodies.

    The animals that died of unnatural causes included 20 Siberian tigers, two African lions, three giraffes, and several macaques, according to the report.

    During a visit to the park this past Friday, reporters discovered that the bodies of a number of animal cubs were being stored in freezers onsite. A separate cold storage facility contained piles of bodies of adult tigers, lions, giraffes, and bears.

    Black bears living in the park are kept inside iron cages all year round, the report found. The bears have worn away the fur on their heads by rubbing against the cages, leaving their scalps bare. One bear is now reportedly unable to walk after being kept in such a confined space for a long time.

    Several Siberian tigers — a class-1 protected species in China — are also being kept inside cages exposed to the elements, according to the report. Other tigers and lions are kept inside small huts with little natural light.

    The story has triggered an outcry in China, with a related hashtag receiving over 100 million views on the microblogging platform Weibo. Many commenters expressed anger at the park and questioned how it had been able to continue operating for so long.

    “These are not small animals, how can 20 tigers die without anyone knowing?” read one highly upvoted comment. “It’s not an animal park, it’s an animal prison,” another user wrote.

    Soon after the report’s publication on Monday, Fuyang Wildlife Park announced it was shutting down temporarily until Wednesday due to “upgrades being made to certain areas of the park.”

    The same day, a staff member at the park surnamed Pan told domestic media that the dead tigers mentioned in recent media reports “do not belong to our zoo, but to another boss — we’re not sure what happened.”

    Municipal authorities in Fuyang — the city where the park is located — have confirmed that they have established a task force to investigate the park.

    “If Fuyang Wildlife Park has been keeping national first-class protected wildlife in cages for a long time without providing them with space to exercise, it constitutes abusive behavior and could be deemed illegal,” Li Enze, executive director of Beijing Yipai Law Firm’s Public Welfare Legal Center, told domestic media.

    “A large number of animals such as Siberian tigers and African lions have already died, which requires further investigation. The culprits should be held accountable,” Li added.

    Murky dealings

    The terrible conditions inside the park appear to be related to the project’s long history of business disputes and financial troubles.

    The park is owned by a private company named Anhui Qicai Wildlife Park. Construction on the facility began in March 2018, with an initial investment of 500 million yuan ($69 million), according to Fuyang municipal records.

    But the project was beset by disputes over land usage rights, which meant construction was not fully completed until 2021.

    The delays led to yet more disputes. The company providing the animals, Fuyang Tengfei Company, began delivering animals to the half-finished park in 2018, including a shipment of 12 giraffes. One of those giraffes reportedly died in 2019.

    In 2019, the park’s owners asked Tengfei to remove the animals, but the company refused. For the next two years, the two parties were reportedly locked in a dispute and renegotiated their contract several times.

    Meanwhile, the park applied for licenses to breed Siberian tigers several times, but these applications were rejected on the grounds that the park lacked adequate facilities to do so. This suggests that the park has been illegally breeding tigers for several years.

    The park finally opened in 2021, while China was still implementing strict pandemic controls, and appeared to be under financial pressure. When the park faced backlash over its 98 yuan ticket prices, which were far higher than other zoos in Anhui, it released a statement arguing that as a private zoo with no government investment or subsidies, it had no choice but to charge high prices.

    All of these challenges reportedly had an impact on the welfare of the animals within the park. Li Lianghua, the owner of Tengfei Company, told domestic media that the park’s utilities were cut off at several points, causing some animals to die of thirst, starvation, and illness. The business disputes also led a number of trained staff to quit, which had an impact on park management.

    According to the local forestry authority, however, part of the reason behind the tragedy was that these tigers were inbred, and had poor genetics. Some tigers died from old age or because of general poor health, said the authority.

    Despite this, the Fuyang Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism issued a notice confirming that the park was a 3A-level tourist attraction as recently as 2023.

    (Header image: A Siberian tiger is kept in a dark room at Fuyang Wildlife Park, Anhui province, 2024. From @中国慈善家杂志 on Weibo)