2007-12-25 23:53:52 Xinhua English
YICHANG, Hubei, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Three Gorges Forest Wild Animal World, which has been in the spotlight because of a Siberian tiger that was beheaded and skinned in central China's Hubei Province, was ordered closed by local authorities on Wednesday.
In accordance with a directive issued jointly by the Forestry and Public Security authorities of Yichang City where the zoo is located, the operator was told to take a range of measures to improve security and conditions at the facility.
The measures included increased daily patrols of the zoo, and repairing shelters for tigers and other animals.
Last Thursday morning, a female Siberian tiger, between six and seven years old, was found dead at the zoo with its head, legs and skin missing. Over the weekend, the remains of two Bengal tiger cubs were found in a refrigerator in the facility's ticket office.
The two cubs were delivered stillborn on November 28.
The cause of the Siberian tiger's death was still under investigation, according to Cao Guangyi, Yichang Forestry Bureau spokesman.
While investigating the death of the Siberian tiger last Thursday, investigators found out that seven other tigers had died previously. The tigers were said to die of starvation in December 2003, or of sickness or fight wounds, said Cao at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
"Six tiger hides and bones have been preserved in the zoo and another is said to be in a research institute in Shennongjia Nature Reserve," Cao said. "The bones of the beheaded Siberian tiger have also been taken care of in line with the country's regulations."
"The bodies of the two cubs were being preserved in the refrigerator. Police are waiting for the decision of the provincial forestry bureau," he added.
Cao said the zoo was right to freeze the cubs' bodies instead of cremating or burying them, but its management should have reported the deaths to the authorities in time.
According to the national law on wildlife protection, zoos needed the approval of local authorities before disposing of bodies of deceased wild animals. But the Three Gorges zoo keepers didn't report the deaths until the bureau started to investigate the matter on Saturday.
Three Gorges Forest Wild Animal World, located in the suburbs of Yichang, opened in October 2002 and attracted hordes of visitors in the first few months, according to Qin Maolin, a retiree who used to work at the zoo. But lack of funds have been preventing it from providing adequate food and health care to the animals since 2003.
Zookeeper Wang Jianxiang said there were 15 tigers, five bears, six African lions, two wolves, 60 monkeys and some birds at the facility. It had only five employees to conduct breeding, management and ticket sales.
"The zoo is losing money," said zoo keeper Wang earlier. "This month, we have had only 20 visitors."