Showing video footage of a Leofoo Wild Animal Park staffer throwing stones at a pregnant tiger, animal rights activists yesterday called on Kaohsiung City Government to turn down two white tigers offered by a Chinese zoo to the city-owned Soushan Zoo and on Hsinchu County to block Leofoo from breeding the species.
“Tigers are listed as Appendix I animals in CITES [the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] and should not be traded or bred for purposes other than research or education,” Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) told a press conference in Taipei.
CITES is an intergovernmental agreement to ensure that the trading of animals and plants does not hurt their prospects for survival.
Breeding white tigers has been condemned by most international conservation experts because the offspring are often genetically defective and die shortly after birth, she said.
Quoting Rob Laidlaw, the director of Canadian animal rights group Zoo Check, Chen said although white tigers “are popular exhibit animals, they serve no real conservation purposes ... [and] are usually the product of hybridization and inbreeding.”
White tigers are not albino tigers and have black stripes. Up to 80 percent of white tigers have serious genetic defects and die soon after birth; those that survive suffer from retinal degeneration, scoliosis of the spine, clubfoot, kidney abnormalities and immune deficiency and are often cross-eyed, she said.
Places like Guangzhou’s Xiangshan Zoo, which has offered the white tigers to Shoushan Zoo and is notorious as the “white tiger factory of the world,” with some 300 of the animals, breed the tigers “mostly to generate revenue for zoos,” she said.
Chen said that while the Leofoo park is privately owned and trying to attract more visitors, Shoushan Zoo should not stoop to the same level by arguing they should import the tigers “to compete with the flow of tourists attracted by the pandas to Taipei.”
“The zoos are objectifying animals in the name of research and education,” she said.
Chen said Xiangshan Zoo had white tiger circus shows daily, which included making tigers jump through rings of fire.
Chen also showed journalists a video obtained by EAST staff last week that caught a Leofoo zookeeper throwing rocks and sticks at a pregnant female Bengal tiger to force it into its cage after the park had closed for the day.
“Leofoo zoo kept two female Bengal tigers in the same cage as a male white tiger for years and the last time we went, we found that one of the females may be pregnant ... We confirmed the pregnancy with the veterinarian later,” she said.
The Hsinchu County Government has approved Leofoo’s breeding of the animals, she said.
Chen also urged the Hsinchu County Government to ban Leofoo from breeding the tigers because “it is against the principle of animal conservation.”
“Zoo tigers are overpopulated already and if released into the wild, zoo animals do not survive. [Meanwhile,] the number of tigers in the wild is decreasing,” she said.
The organization also urged the public to write to Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) to protest the import of the tigers from China.