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Zoo denies viral video reveals abused tiger

By Yang Jun in Guiyang and Hou Liqiang in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-17 07:30

A private zoo on Thursday dismissed allegations that a tiger shown in a video that went viral was abused.

Videos showing a keeper pulling a tiger's tail and sitting on him at an animal park in Xiuwen county, about 30 kilometers from the provincial capital of Guiyang, Guizhou province, have been reposted by media outlets and individuals on Sina Weibo and WeChat.

One of the videos starts with a keeper pulling a tiger's tail. The keeper then walks behind the animal several times around a small artificial hill. The keeper was also shown sitting on the tiger's back and pulling its ears.

A red line on the body of one tiger later aroused suspicion that the tiger was injured by the keeper. Some netizens also said they saw no teeth in the tiger's mouth.

"The video is clipped from a live-streaming video done three months ago. They were in a training session," said Wang Shulin, manager of the zoo. "It didn't receive much attention when the live streaming was being done. I don't know why it suddenly went viral."

The zoo, which was established in 2006, has 30 tigers.

Yao Shiming, the keeper seen in the video, has been with the 2-year-old tiger since it was a cub and "it's common that they play in that way", Wang said, adding that they "didn't interfere with the live streaming" done by employees.

"I spent at least one hour and, at most, four hours a day with the tiger for more than two years. It sometimes bites me for fun, but never injures me," Yao said. "It just considers me a tiger and we have a very good relationship.

"I asked my colleague to take the video and I only wanted to share that in my WeChat. Others are afraid of the animal, but I can play with it."

Ren Yuewu, director of Xiuwen's ecological civilization department, said an investigation by police found no evidence that the keeper had abused the animal.

"The red line on the tiger was not blood, but red paint, and there is no problem with the tiger's teeth," Ren said.

However, supervision of the zoo will be strengthened, while keepers' behavior will be regulated to avoid future misunderstandings, he added.

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