Fireworks send tiger plunging from China high-rise

BEIJING - A seven-month-old tiger fell to its death from a Chinese high-rise building, state media reported Wednesday, apparently frightened by Lunar New Year fireworks.

A couple driving home from a New Year's dinner found the animal -- which they initially thought was a large dog -- next to the building in Pingdu in the eastern province of Shandong and called police, according to a report in the regional Peninsula City newspaper.

Pictures showed the tiger lying on its side, with a puddle of blood oozing from its head.

Chinese set off vast amounts of fireworks to ring in the new year. Police speculated the noise probably frightened the animal, causing it to break out of its cage in an apartment before plunging to its death.

Police are investigating and no arrests have been made, the paper said. It gave no details of the tiger's owners.

China's population of captive tigers -- whose body parts are supposed to be beneficial in traditional medicine, despite the absence of any scientific evidence -- has boomed in recent years with up to 6,000 in about 200 farms across the country.

In contrast global tiger numbers in the wild have plummeted from 100,000 a century ago to only 3,000 today, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Tiger bones have long been an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine, supposedly for a capacity to strengthen the human body.

China banned trade in tiger bones in 1993 but the law is regularly flouted, campaigners say.

Legislation is also unclear on whether cats bred in captivity are considered endangered in China, and there is little regulation about what needs to be declared when they die.

The animal is considered a symbol of prestige for many in China, with tiger pelt rugs sought-after luxury items, along with tiger bone wine.