1. February 2010. Visitors to the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin are attracted by the promise of stunning Russian architecture and the world’s most impressive Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival. Less trumpeted, but equally fascinating in its own way is this eerie Siberian Tiger Park Preserve situated 14 km outside the city centre.
2. February 2010. With as few as 500 Siberian tigers believed to be left in the wild, the park plays a crucial role in preserving the breed; with around eight hundred beasts living throughout the park’s 250 acres. There are also a few pumas, leopards and ligers, a rare cross between a tiger and a lion. They look weird.
3. February 2010. A self-guided walking tour takes you around a vast collection of tiger enclosures. And although the animals look healthy enough and seem more than content in their habitat, the place was a little run-down, with rusty bars and a distinct lack of foliage.
4. February 2010. You can also take a short bus tour right through the heart of the grounds where the tigers roam freely. It’s common for many of the residents to come running over to the bus and jump up at the windows with a playful thud. Admittedly this is quite the thrill (!) and guaranteed to get at least a few people shrieking in terror.
5. August 2014. The park is a controversial place for some, especially with animal rights activists who strongly disapprove of a key attraction on offer to tourists. If you feel so inclined, one can feed the tigers, Jurassic Park style, from a menu that includes live chickens, cows, goats, sheep, ducks and pheasants. Not for everyone then, though these Chinese tourists were absolutely awestruck when they realized they were about to witness this chicken getting liberated.
No chickens were harmed in the writing of this article!
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