Three local politicians in China have been sanctioned for illegally keeping Siberian tigers as pets, after one of the animals jumped to its death from the eleventh floor of a high-rise building. The illegal animals were uncovered after a cub, frightened by fireworks being set off to mark Chinese New Year, jumped to its death in Qingdao city in Shandong province last month.
The animal was in the care Yang Wenzheng, a member of the municipal People’s Congress, a Communist Party-controlled local legislature, Agence France-Presse reported. Yang and a fellow deputy had obtained tigers from a colleague who owned a local mountain park, and was reportedly unable to meet the cost of feeding them. Yang kept a tiger cub and an adult animal on the roof of a building he owned. The other deputy, Zhang Fucai, was asked to raise another adult tiger and three cubs, the South China Morning Post reported.
Each of the men was fined 3,000 yuan (approximately $480) for failing to have licenses to keep the animals. All three have resigned their local government posts following the sanctions.
China has long been the focus of condemnation for its prominent role in the illegal international wildlife trade, much of which services its demand for animal parts deemed beneficial in traditional Chinese medicine.
Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are the world's largest cats. They live primarily in eastern Russia's birch forests, though some exist in China and North Korea. There are an estimated 400 to 500 Siberian tigers living in the wild, National Geographic reported.
China enacted a ban on the consumption of tiger bone in 1993, but has been subject to much international criticism for failing to adequately enforce the law, and covertly condoning the trade, according to a report from the Smithsonian Institution. Breeding tigers for commercial consumption in China remains legal, however.
A report released Wednesday detailed how illegal animal products, including tiger parts, were widely available in countries in the so-called “Golden Triangle,” where the borders of three nations -- Laos, Myanmar and Thailand -- intersect.