Houdini tiger escapes wildlife park

By Wei Na Source:Global Times Published: 2012-5-13 23:50:00

The entrance of Badaling Wild Animal Park, Yanqing county. Photos: IC

A Bengal tiger escaped from its enclosure in a wildlife park near the Badaling section of the Great Wall on Saturday morning.

While the big cat was only at large for 10 minutes, staff admitted it was not the first time the potentially dangerous predator had got out of its enclosure.

The tiger escaped from the Bengal tiger park at the Badaling Wild Animal Park in Yanqing county, when the current on the electric fence was temporarily turned off to allow a patrol car to exit the enclosure. As the car went through the gate, the tiger followed it into an empty triangular-shaped enclosure, bordered on one side by Siberian tigers, and on the other by an entry gate  for the public to drive their cars inside.

The park hastily closed the gate on  the queue of cars, and the patrol car "rounded up" the tiger back to its own enclosure, according to a report in the Beijing Times yesterday.

"All I know is that the visitors were kept away from the area and nobody was in any real danger," an employee of the park said yesterday, who would not give her name.

She said the person who knows details of the "incident" was not available for interview yesterday.

However, the park's director said that a similar situation had happened "once or twice" previously.

"The tiger must be smart enough to figure out the electric current would be cut off when the patrol car passes through the exit," said one of the security guards in the car, reported the Beijing Times.  

Zhou Ming, a Beijing lawyer, recently visited the park with her child, and said she had some concerns about the safety of the tours the park organizes, where visitors ride on the park's buses.

"We were on the tour bus run by the park administration, and the windows could be easily opened, while the kids stretched their arms outside and threw food," said Zhou.

"No staff was there to warn people of this inappropriate exposure to the lions and tigers which were not far away," she said.

"I don't think tigers can be that smart; they are beasts, but I'm surprised the park administration is not smart enough to learn their lessons and fix things that could endanger the tourists," said Zhao Xinru, professor of zoology at Beijing Normal University.

Lax security management at wildlife parks is responsible for a number of recent cases in which wild animals have escaped or attacked visitors. 

On February 5, 27 tourists were trapped in a bus while Bengal tigers destroyed the windows, in a wildlife park in Jinan, Shandong Province. There was no staff around to help them for at least 15 minutes, according to a Xinhua News Agency report on February 6.

In June 2010, a man was attacked by five tigers and killed in a wildlife park in Xi'an, Shanxi Province, after he and his son accidentally entered the tiger enclosure. The gate was wide open and unattended, reported the Chinesenews website.

"In 2010, I visited several wildlife parks in Indonesia, and none of the animals like cheetahs and Bengal tigers had any exposure to the tour bus, while many emergency staff could be seen around different zones all the time," said Zhao.

An employee, surnamed Yu, from the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, said the country has more wildlife parks than many other nations, but security concerns have bedeviled zoos and parks in China for a long time.  

"Local wildlife parks that pop up overnight are more interested in selling tickets than upgrading security, like increasing the number of staff on duty," said Yu.

Because there are no standards or regulations in the industry, parks like the one at Badaling allow private cars to drive inside, which can mean the public are exposed to dangerous animals, said Yu.

"There needs to be specific regulations for this industry, which can potentially endanger people's lives," she noted. 


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