Videos and photos showing a nine-year-old girl, Xiao Jing, walking and playing with a three-month-old Siberian tiger cub in a park in Quanzhou, Fujian Province, have been circulating on the Chinese internet recently.
Many Chinese news outlets reported that the cub came from a zoo where the girl’s father, Mr. Sun, was an animal feeder, and that he let his daughter walk the cub after its mother and siblings died.
There are about 540 Siberian tigers in the world, according to World Wildlife Fund. These endangered animals are largely found in the Russian Far East, northern China, and North Korea. In China, they are first-class nationally protected animals.
Mr. Sun said that after the mother tiger and her two other cubs died, he decided to raise the remaining cub by himself to keep him alive, feeding him milk, beef, eggs, and calcium every day.
He also wanted the cub to get exercise.
“Taking a walk is good for the health of the tiger cub. It’s not good for him to stay inside a cage all the time,” said Mr. Sun. “I have been raising animals for 20 years. I feel pity sometimes when seeing tigers stuck inside a cage. They’re like little kids. As long as they are inside a cage, they will never be able to get out,” he said. He said that he will put the cub inside a cage when he turns four months old.
While some netizens were amazed by the fact that a tiger can be raised like a pet dog, some questioned the legitimacy of the way that the animal was treated. One commenter said: “In Western countries, where the zoos are privately owned, there’s no problem of walking a tiger. However, in China, the zoos are state owned. How come she has the right to walk the tiger? Aren’t tigers protected animals in China?”