Tigers killed after mauling zoo worker
08:52, November 16, 2009
A zoo in Liaoning Province was closed to visitors Saturday as police began investigating Friday's mauling of a zoo worker by two tigers. The attack is attributed to the tigers being starved.
Two Siberian tigers went after Yang Jingwei, 51, an automatic-door operator in the Shenyang Qipanshan Glacier Animal Park, on Friday afternoon when he was cleaning the snow on the staff-only pathway, the local Liaoshen Evening News reported.
A badly injured Yang struggled desperately for nearly 15 minutes before zoo workers dispersed the tigers with a shotgun and by sounding the siren on a vehicle.
However, Yang could not be reached as the tigers kept everyone else at bay until the police came in and fired more than 10 shots to subdue the big cats, which died later.
A profusely bleeding Yang was seriously injured on his head, neck, hands, arms and legs, and flesh had been ripped out from the lower part of his face, according to reports.
"He was brought in a coma caused by excessive blood loss," Dr. Gaoyan at Shenyang Military General Hospital, told the Xinhua News Agency. "His breath and heartbeat could be barely felt."
Yang came to Saturday morning after hours of operations. Doctors said he is still not out of danger from organ damage as a result of intense bleeding.
The zoo was closed to the public until further notice
No one knows how the tigers reached the pathway, which is wire-fenced and 2.8-meters high, or what provoked the attack on Yang.
One suspicion is that the beasts may have been starved over a long time due to a sharp drop in the zoo's revenue (and consequent lack of funds for animal feed), according to the Liaoshen Evening News.
"It is possible that the tigers attacked a human being because they are starved," Wan Dongmei, professor of zoology at Liaoning University, told the Global Times Sunday.
The zoo was founded in 2000 and home to more than 2,000 species of fauna, had 33 Siberian tigers before the incident.
Even before the economic downturn, there was a drop in the number of visitors, leading to heavy loss of revenue, as much as 50 percent in 2006.
The zoo administration, which has a poor record of animal feeding, dealt with the revenue shortfall by sacrificing small animals to save the big ones.
"Ducks and geese that once amused visitors were fed to the big cats that often had to make do with two dead chickens for a meal," according to an animal caregiver quoted in the Shenyang Evening News.
Other big animals, like the elephant, were also starved. Gnawing hunger drove the elephants to smash their heads against the wall to protest the reduced meal portions.
This is not the first time that the zoo has been shut down. On November 1, 2006, financial problems forced the first closure of the zoo. It reopened nine days later after the local government poured in millions of yuan.
This time, the closure is indefinite.
An animal caregiver surnamed Liu at Harbin's Siberian Tiger Park, the largest natural park for wild Siberian tigers in the world, told the Global Times Sunday that expenditure on feeding tigers is a burden to some zoos.
He said a grown tiger eats almost 10 kilograms of meat daily, costing nearly 150 yuan ($22). The cost of keeping a tiger on a full stomach is about 100,000 yuan a year. Whether overfed or starved, tigers are very dangerous, Liu said.
Siberian tigers, among the world's most endangered species, are found mostly in Northeast China and the far east of Russia. In the 1980s, it was listed as a first-class national protected animal of China.
There have been other tiger attacks in recent years. Earlier this year, a Siberian tiger in a wildlife park near Beijing mauled to death a man who climbed into its enclosure mistaking it for a shortcut down from the Great Wall.
In March 2008, a mentally ill man who entered a tiger's cage in a zoo in Heilongjiang Province ended up as its meal for the day.
There was also the strange incident in February 2007 of a 6-year-old girl who was being photographed with a tiger, at a zoo in Yunnan Province, being bitten by the beast.