'Bad tempered' tiger escapes zoo in China

A rare Siberian tiger escaped from an east China zoo, frightening locals in a downtown public park before she was shot dead by more than 12 police, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The nine-year-old endangered big cat fled her cage in Wuhu city, Anhui province when a zookeeper there forgot to lock the gate properly after feeding time, Xinhua said, citing zoo officials.

The tiger had a bad temper, "probably caused by mating anxiety," the zoo officials told Xinhua, which said that further investigation is underway.

No humans were hurt in the incident.

The tiger's escape was the latest in a string of cases involving tigers escaping from zoos in China over the past few years, according to local media reports.

In January, a tour bus driver was mauled to death by a tiger at a breeding centre in northeast China after he got out of his vehicle to check on a mechanical problem and was dragged off to a wooded area by the hungry cat.

China says it has nearly 6,000 endangered tigers in captivity, but just 50 to 60 living in the wild in its northeast, including about 20 Siberian tigers.

In the 1980s, China set up tiger farms to try to preserve the big cats, intending to release some into the wild.

But the farms have come under the international spotlight, with some conservation groups saying they use the cats for their body parts, while media reports have exposed poor conditions at zoos and animal parks.

In one tiger attack in 2009, police in northeast China shot dead two starving Siberian tigers after they severely mauled a zoo worker.

Most escaped tigers are put down by police if they are not caught.

- AFP

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