Chinese tiger cubs found dead in refrigerator

BEIJING (Reuters) - Two dead Bengal tiger cubs have been found in a refrigerator at a zoo in China, where the animal’s body parts are prized as medicines, in the second such incident within a week.

The cubs were discovered at the Three Gorges Forest Wild Animal World in Yichang, Hubei Province, where a rare Siberian tiger was found skinned and beheaded last week, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

The two cubs were stillborn on November 28 and instead of reporting the deaths to the local forestry bureau in line with regulations, the zookeepers put the corpses in the refrigerator “for better preservation,” Xinhua said.

They only told authorities about the deaths after an investigation was launched over the weekend, it cited Cao Guangyi, spokesman with the Yichang Forestry Bureau, as saying.

“The bureau has ordered the zoo to shape up its management and make the laws and regulations on wildlife protection better understood among the employees,” Xinhua quoted Cao as saying.

The Beijing News had reported earlier the cubs were Siberian tigers and that they were found at a zoo in the southwestern province of Chongqing.

Xinhua said forestry police were investigating last week’s case of the skinned and beheaded female Siberian tiger.

China breeds Siberian tigers as a way to protect one of the world’s most endangered species, which mostly lives in northeast China and Russia.

Lack of funds has been blamed for a number of macabre incidents involving tigers in zoos in China. Last month, underfed tigers in a zoo in northern China turned on each other, killing one of them and eating it.

The zoo at which the dead cubs were found, home to more than 100 species of animals, is staffed by just five employees, Xinhua said.

“The zoo is losing money,” it quoted zookeeper Wang Jiangxiang as saying. “Since this month, we have had only 20 visitors.”

Reporting by Jason Subler; Editing by Charles Dick