Captivity
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Captivity: two deaths spark condemnation in China

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Big cats are trending on Weibo again, as tigers kept in captivity killed their keepers and were subsequently shot in two separate incidents in Anhui and Henan provinces on Sunday and Tuesday. Almost 3,000 comments were made under related hashtags on the social media site, which were viewed at least 10 million times.

What’s the story?

State media reported Sunday that a man was mauled to death by the Siberian tigers he cared for at the Zhanggongshan Zoo in Bengbu, Anhui in central China. Two days later, a circus owner became the focus of a similar tragedy when two tigers escaped their enclosure at the Peacock Valley attraction near the city of Nanyang in the central province of Henan after killing their keeper.

On Wednesday, the son of a circus owner in Suzhou, Anhui, who had leased two tigers to the Henan park, explained that the animals had been sent there illegally in 2020 when the circus could no longer afford to raise them due to canceled performances during the pandemic. He said his father had gone to Henan to cooperate with the investigation.

In May, news that three leopards had escaped from a zoo in Hangzhou rocked Chinese media, and outrage grew once the zoo admitted the animals had been in the wild since April 19. One leopard is still at large (link in Chinese).

What are people saying online?

Universal condemnation of the practice of holding wild animals captive in zoos spanned the comments section of this story on Weibo. “Two breeders were killed and two tigers were shot dead — a lose-lose situation. It’s the management loopholes that hurt people and tigers. Some accidents seem to be accidental, but they are actually the result of the accumulation of hidden dangers.”

“How can it be legal for the country to allow people to make money by turning protected animals into a source of entertainment?”

“After raising such animals for a long time, people start treating them like cats, and all sense of safety goes away. Last time in Hangzhou, this time in Nanyang — practitioners should be trained, and organizations fixed.”

“I went to our local zoo once during the Lunar New Year. Trapped in a confined space and fed by a keeper every day, the tiger’s mind would have snapped long ago.”