Authorities in Guiyang, the capital of China’s southwestern Guizhou province, have launched an investigation after allegations that a tiger was being mistreated at a nearby zoo.
The move came after videos surfaced of a zookeeper pulling a tiger by the tail and sitting on its back, among other things, prompting an outcry from netizens.
The facility at the center of the controversy, Guizhou Forest Wildlife Zoo, has dismissed the charges of animal abuse, saying an employee was just playing with the animal, news website hk01.com reports.
A Chinese citizen pointed out in a Weibo post on Wednesday that live videos streamed onto a website showed a tiger being apparently abused by its keeper.
In one clip, a man is seen holding a mobile phone in one hand and pulling a tiger’s tail with the other.
He later sits on the animal’s back and tugs at its ears, while people could be heard laughing in the background.
The tiger tries to get away and hide behind a rock, but it was still dragged out.
According to reports, another video clip showed a metal wire around the tiger’s neck and what appeared to be an injury mark on the animal.
Zoo authorities, however, rejected accusations that the tiger was mistreated, insisting that a zookeeper was just being playful as he had a close bond with the animal.
They said in a statement Thursday that the tiger seen in the clip has been interacting with its keeper intimately since it was born two years ago and that the activities between the two were all fun.
Local media later found the man, who identified himself as a keeper at the zoo and admitted that he was behind the live-streaming videos, Metro Hong Kong reports.
The zoo employee said he was surprised that his games with the tiger were being labeled by some people as animal abuse.
He said that he films his interactions with the tiger almost every day, and that he has never been afraid of being attacked by the animal as they are very attached to each other.
It is said that the live-streaming began about two months ago and there have been about 30 clips so far.
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