SCIENCE

These Tiger Cubs Are Adorable, But Their Home Certainly Is Not

Welfare groups say the "tiger farm" focuses on tourists' pleasure, rather than helping this endangered species.

24/05/2016 9:13 PM AEST | Updated 26/05/2016 8:16 PM AEST
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Siberian tigers are among the most threatened animals on the planet. Populations are so grim an April report revealed the U.S. has more of the animals in captivity than there are in the wild. So the birth of two cubs is a cause for celebration.

China's state-run CCTV News published a video online of two 4-day-old cubs rolling around an enclosure. They joined 26 other cubs born at Harbin Siberian Tiger Park in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province this month.

Despite the joyous news for this endangered species, the video above shines a spotlight on the controversial practices of the park, which some welfare groups have referred to as a “tiger farm” that doesn't actually help conservation efforts.

The park has come under fire in recent years for lax safety standards and a gruesome experience where guests can pay to feed the animals like farm animals. Conservationists accuse the park, the oldest of its kind in China, of keeping more than 500 animals in small cages.

A report from McClatchy DC found some of the park's income may actually come from the bones and pelts of dead animals, lucrative products that can fetch astronomical prices on the black market.

Tiger populations face dire threats, including poaching, and just 3,200 remain in the wild. The World Wildlife Fund estimates only around 540 wild Siberian tigers now live in their native forests around Russia's Far East and the Chinese border.

So if you'd rather support conservation efforts, consider donating to groups like National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative or Panthera. And if you're considering visiting a wildlife park in the U.S. or abroad, check out the organization's background.

This article has been updated throughout to reflect additional information about the Chinese tiger parks and their treatment of animals.

Nick Visser contributed reporting to this story.

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