Eleven Siberian tigers that died at a strike-plagued private zoo were “intentionally starved to hold the government to ransom,” a source told the Nanfang Daily.
Initial disbelief stirred up into public outrage after media reports over the weekend revealed that eleven Siberian tigers have been starved to death in the past three months at the private-holding Shenyang Forest Wildlife Zoo in northeast China.
The zoo was forced to close last November after two tigers were shot dead in an accident and has been plagued by strikes over back pay. The anonymous insider said the zoo staff’s salaries had been delayed for 18 months.
The zoo’s annual revenue, largely from ticket fees during the six-month peak seasons, averages about 12 to 20 million yuan ($1.8 to 2.9 million). That sum, coupled with a government subsidy of 2 million yuan ($293,000) each year, couldn’t have left the zoo in red, the source said.
“It can’t go so far as to delayed payments and animal starvation. Now a few tigers are starved, which is simply a hijack to ransom the government for the zoo’s debts,” said the source.
The problem was echoed by the zoo’s deputy Party secretary Wu Xi.
“The feedstuff generally costs about 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) a year. But the boss uses the revenues to pay debts and salaries, and the money actually spent on the wild animals was less than 8 million yuan ($1.2 million),” Wu said.
The zoo’s boss Yang Zhenhua showed up on Sunday at the company’s dining hall for a ten-minute staff meeting, assuring employees’payments and pleading the workers go back to their jobs.
So far, a probe into the tiger deaths is underway, while animal experts have been called in to ensure the remaining animals’health. The Shenyang municipal government has allocated 7 million yuan ($1.02 million) for the rescue work, two million of which will be used to resume the zoo’s operation.