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Athens zoo fights to save tiger cub found in garbage

Athens zoo fights to save tiger cub found in garbage
A white tiger cub that was abandoned outside the Attica Zoological Park and is believed to be a victim of illegal wildlife trade, drinks water at the zoo's infirmary, in Athens, Greece, on March 17, 2023.
PHOTO: Reuters

ATHENS — Greek veterinarians are fighting to save a white tiger cub abandoned in a rubbish bin at an Athens zoo, believed to be a victim of the illegal wildlife trade.

The three-month old white tiger was found on Feb 28 under a garbage bin in the parking lot of the Attica Zoological Park by a cleaner, who notified the zoo owner.

"It is the first time ever we had such an animal dumped outside our zoo," said zoo founder Jean-Jacques Lesueur. "I mean we had a number of cases of animals dumped, but usually these are abandoned pets — puppies, kittens, tortoises... but a tiger? Never."

The zoo's security camera video shows a vehicle driving up to the bins before midnight the previous night. Authorities were trying to trace the licence plates, said Lesueur.

The animal, which was thin and dehydrated, is in a serious condition.

"When I first saw the cub, I couldn't believe what I was seeing in front of me, I honestly couldn't believe that an animal was in such a state," said zoo veterinarian Noi Psaroudaki. "She was probably fed an improper diet, and she is severely deficient in vitamins and minerals, and this makes her bones extremely fragile."

X-rays also showed a metal pin has been placed in one of the cub's back legs.

Lesueur said if the tiger survives it will have to be relocated to a sanctuary, as the zoo has no other animals of its kind. International wildlife and animal welfare organisations have already contacted the zoo to help, he said.

The zoo's head keeper for cats, Andrea Cerny, said due to their size, diet and aggressiveness, tigers were difficult to care for.

"A tiger definitely cannot be a pet. It is a very dangerous animal, with a very big killing instinct," said Cerny. "Most of these pet tigers are going to be abandoned or killed."

Wildlife trade in Europe is a billion euro business, according to Europol, and Asia and Africa are common origins of exotic animals being sold to European buyers.

"We know that animals enter Greece illegally — snakes, tigers, like this one, it is not the first time a tiger has entered," said Maria Ganoti, head of Greek wildlife rescue association ANIMA, which has often cared for wild animals that have been abandoned, such as snakes and crocodiles.

"These usually come from entry points like Turkey, or Cyprus, but Greece has started to become an entry gate for the rest of Europe."

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