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We agree with Li

30 July 2012

Teenage Siberian tiger, pictured in Novosibirsk Zoo, Western Siberia. Picture: Alexander Zhiltsov

Up close, there is no doubt they learn about animals they would not normally see, or touch. 

Not so much with tigers, but there are many places in Russia where such pictures are taken with wild animals. Sometimes bears. 

But is it right?

Recently it is reported that the Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin, China, is to ban such photographs.

The reason is a complaint from a nearby resident, known only by the surname Li. 

'The cubs cried miserably, and that's so pitiful,' said Li, as quoted by  Xinhua News Agency.

The distressed cubs would even hide behind the tree after being photographed.

'Obviously, they aren't willing to do this,' stressed Li, whose warnings have had a dramatic impact on the authorities. 

'Li's complaint won the support of local wildlife conservation and forestry departments, and the relevant departments of Heilongjiang decided to stop the profitable activity,' reported Xinhua.

Of course, such pictures are indeed profitable for wildlife parks, zoos, circuses, or the unscrupulous  owners of wild animals - whether monkeys, snakes, exotic birds or lion or tiger cubs, or bears - who hawk them around tourist sites.  In the worst cases, animals are drugged or befuddled with vodka. 

The Siberian Tiger Park - which has hundreds of these threatened animals (or which only 500 or so now live in the wild) and is the largest place of its kind in the world - is highly reputable and does excellent work caring for these endangered creatures which mostly roam freely on its territory, rather than being caged, with tourists taking buses encircled by wire mesh to observe the wildlife. 

Some tourists profess shock at seeing live cows fed to the tigers here: yet the tigers are predators. Making a kill is part of being a tiger. 

Whatever the arguments on the live cows (perhaps for a later time), this park is in a different league to many others where animals are kept with visible cruelty. 

Despite this, it's a good decision to back Li. 

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