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Father sees son mauled to death by tiger
By Liu Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-12 06:36

A desperate father fought in vain to save his eight-year-old son from being mauled to death by a tiger on Sunday at a zoo in Changde, Central China's Hunan Province.

Victim Mei Changhua climbed over a 1-metre-high barrier to get a better view of the big cats, when a tiger attacked him through the bars of its cage.

Despite his father's efforts, Mei bled to death before reaching hospital on Sunday, the local newspaper Xiaoxiang Morning Post reported.

The death has prompted an outcry, with the zoo being slammed for failing to protect visitors.

"If proper zoo-keeping rules had been adhered to, this tragedy would never have happened," He Yong, an official with US-based International Fund for Animal Welfare said yesterday in Beijing.

As a place often visited by children, the zoo has a responsibility to create a safe environment for both visitors and the animals on display, he added.

Shortly after the accident, one visitor said the 1-metre-high fence to keep people away from the cage was obviously inadequate and very easy for children to jump over.

Local resident Pan Jiang, who has a five-year-old son of his own, said that if the boy had been with an adult the accident would not have happened.

When he went to see the tigers, the dead boy was only with his 10-year-old cousin, Chen Lei. Mei's father, Mei Qide, had accompanied the boys to the zoo in Linjiang Park on Sunday afternoon, but had not gone inside to save the price of an adult ticket.

Mei senior only arrived on the scene after his nephew came to get him, following the tiger's attack on his son.

During his rescue attempt, Mei senior was seriously wounded, but despite pulling his son free of the big cat, was not in time to stop him bleeding to death on the way to hospital.

Media attempts to contact the zoo's administration were unsuccessful.

A source surnamed Zhang, who is with the Changde Gardening Administration, said the zoo's owner is a private businessman, who hires very limited numbers of workers to run the zoo, which covers about two hectares inside the government-owned Linjiang Park.

According to Zhang, the zoo is already in discussion with the Mei family over compensation for the boy's death.

(China Daily 04/12/2005 page2)

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