A municipal government in northeastern China has allocated 7 million yuan ($1 million) to improve conditions at a local zoo after the recent deaths of 11 rare Siberian tigers and other animals, state media said Sunday.
The Siberian tigers at the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo starved to death in the past three months, having been fed nothing but chicken bones as the facility ran into financial trouble, according to reports last week, although a zoo manager said unspecified diseases killed the animals.
The deaths reflected the mixed results as China attempts to save its dwindling number of tigers. While extensive conservation efforts are under way, animal protection groups say zoos and wildlife parks may be deliberately breeding more animals than they can afford, hoping to sell off the carcasses on a black market where tiger parts fetch a high price for use in traditional medicines and liquor.
Four of the tigers were among 26 animals reported dead in January, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, citing a copy of a list it obtained from the zoo on Sunday. Xinhua said no reason was given for the deaths.
The list also included several species classified as being under state protection, such as a red-crowned crane, four stump-tailed macaques, a rhesus monkey and a brown bear, Xinhua said.
The zoo has struggled financially, even withholding pay from staff, employees have said.
Zhang Jinghui, secretary-general of the Shenyang municipal government, said the funds would be spent on protecting the zoo's animals and on facilitating the zoo's management and operations, Xinhua reported.
Siberian tigers are one of the world's rarest species, with an estimated 300 left in the wild, 50 in China. But more than 5,000 are held captive on farms and wildlife parks across China.
A duty officer who answered the phone at the zoo refused to comment. Calls to the municipal government and the State Forestry Administration rang unanswered Sunday.