Park: Tiger cub boom not great news
www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-25 09:47:30
BEIJING, May 25 — The Siberian Tiger Park in the capital of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province is expecting about 100 new cubs this year.
The media coverage will be widespread, said Wang Ligang, the park manager, who seemed less than enthusiastic about the new arrivals on account of the financial burden they’ll put on the park.
"More cubs means more mouths to feed," he complained.
The park, which contains only Siberian tigers, is the world’s biggest artificial breeding base for the rare species.
About a quarter of the park’s 200 females of fertile age are expected to bring the total number of tigers there to more than 700.
The fast increase has obviously made the 144-hectare park’s compounds more crowded and rendered its facilities inadequate.
Wang said that the fast increase is partly due to a change in the tigers’ fertility habits.
"Those living in the wild will not mate again before their cubs are 2 years old; however, an artificially raised tiger could give birth twice in a year," Wang said.
An adult tiger consumes about 10 kilos of beef a day, plus some milk powder and eggs, at a cost of about 120 yuan (US$15). Feeding cubs generally costs half that amount.
Ticket sales, the park’s chief source of income alongside some government funding, bring in a little more than 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) a year. The park lost 3 million yuan (US$375,000) last year, when about 100 cubs were also born.
"We have always been in a tight situation, and no change is foreseeable," Wang said.
The more than 600 tigers are currently crowding into more than 100 accommodations, with many resting outdoors.
The park also leases its tigers to zoos around the country and last year invited the public to "adopt" and name a tiger in exchange for a donation.
"But that is just a drop in the bucket, and it is mainly aimed at raising people’s awareness of tiger protection," Wang said.
Each year, the park applies for money from the government, but Tao Jin, section chief of the Animal and Plants Management Department of the Heilongjiang Forestry Department, declined to disclose the sum the park applied for this year.
However, it is an open secret that the park has a huge treasure in its freezers the bones and fur of dead tigers, the number of which, Wang said, has surpassed 100 since the park was established in 1986.
China, having signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 1981, promised to ban the sale of any part of the Siberian tiger as well as other endangered species.
"We can do nothing with them at present except spend more to preserve them," Wang said.
Liu Dan, chief engineer of the park, hoped the convention would become a little "less strict."
"We could sell the tigers’ remains to some animal organizations for scientific education, and for wine in which their bones have been infused (for medicinal value)."
The park is conducting DNA tests to optimize mating in the future, Liu said.
Ma Yiqing, a veteran researcher with the Harbin Natural Resources Institute, said the convention is too restrictive. "It is right to curb illegal hunting," he said, "but it needs to be a little flexible now.
"If we don’t even have enough money to feed artificially raised tigers, how can you protect the wild ones?"
(Source: China Daily)
Editor: Lu Hui
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