Zoo death highlights lack of wildlife breeding regulations

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The killing of a zoo worker and mauling of another by a tiger on September 10 in Binh Duong Province has revealed gaping loopholes in the management of wildlife breeding, experts say.

"There are no regulations on the management of tiger breeding nor safety criteria for cages to ensure the safety of workers and visitors," said Tran Van Nguyen, deputy head of the provincial Forest Management Agency.

Do Quang Tung, head of Vietnam office of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), told Tuoi Tre newspaper that the central Forest Protection Department is preparing regulations on the breeding of dangerous wild animals.

However, it would take time and scientific research to issue safety regulations involving specific species, he said, adding that this was a new issue for other countries in the region as well.

Tung also said the Binh Duong Forest Management Agency had inspected three facilities that keep tigers in the province, including the Dai Nam Zoo where the accident happened.

Inspectors have ordered them to submit a tiger breeding plan within three months and strengthen the fences of tiger cages.

The accident

On September 10, an Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) at Dai Nam Zoo leapt from its enclosure into an unoccupied den where three men were planting trees.

According to other employees of the zoo, the tiger jumped over the two-and-half-meter concrete wall surrounding its enclosure and attacked the men.

Nguyen Cong Danh, 47, was killed on the spot while Nguyen Thanh Giau, 21, was rushed to the hospital with severe injuries to the head and neck. The third man escaped by diving into a moat.

The tiger, weighing more than 150 kilograms, was then forced back into its den.

Huynh Uy Dung, chairman of Dai Nam Joint Stock Company that manages the zoo, said the accident was a "sorrowful" affair for them. He said zoo workers had paid a lot of attention to maintaining a safe distance between the tigers and visitors, and not as much to the distance between the dens.

The movement of the tree being planted might have frightened the tiger, prompting it to attack the workers, he speculated.

"We closed the section of dangerous animals immediately after the accident and inspected the safety of all cages," he said, adding that the strengthening of the cages would be completed by September 20.

He also said the company would pay all the hospital fees for Giau and pay Danh's family his monthly salary and other wages for the next ten years.

Dung said the Dai Nam Zoo had a total of 20 tigers.

The zoo was given permission to breed tigers in captivity in 2007 together with two other companies in the province - Thanh Canh Enterprise and Thai Binh Duong (Pacific) Beer Company.

An inspection of Dai Nam Zoo Co. Ltd. in July showed there were 13 tigers at the zoo, nearly double the seven it was registered for.

In total, the company was keeping 583 wild animals of 71 species but its license, which had expired by then, only permitted 294 animals of 27 species.

Inspectors also found that the zoo did not record its breeding and raising methods to ensure the animals maintained normal reproduction under captive conditions.

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