'Rare' tiger exposed as circus fugitive

Updated: 2008-03-25 07:26

CHANGSHA: The big cat first captured on film by a TV station worker in a forest of Hunan province was identified yesterday as a Siberian tiger that had escaped from a circus.

The animal was initially thought to be a rare South China tiger.

A photographer with the Pingjiang county TV station told the local forestry bureau "he had unintentionally captured a big animal on film" last Wednesday and asked for help identifying it.

Media reports were rife with speculation that it was a wild South China tiger, attracting nationwide attention.

The provincial forestry bureau on Thursday sent two teams to the site where the pictures were shot and preliminary findings confirmed the "big animal" was a tiger.

A comparison of the shape, footprints and other features of South China and Siberian tigers showed the tiger was indeed from the latter camp.

Investigators also traced the cat back to a circus that was touring Hunan. No one knows yet how the tiger managed to escape from the circus.

The story comes close on the heels of an incident in October in which Zhou Zhenglong, a villager in Shaanxi province, shot 30 pictures of what he claimed was a wild South China tiger.

But the pictures' authenticity was challenged, with people saying they had been faked.

The Shaanxi forestry department, which announced the tiger sighting, has apologized for publicizing the photos, but has said nothing about their authenticity.

Xinhua

(China Daily 03/25/2008 page4)