Harbin’s Horrible Siberian Tiger Park 黑龙江阿穆尔虎园

Having been to the Beijing zoo and seen the terrible housing conditions the animals suffered there, I was a bit worried coming here. In all honesty, we probably would not have if it wasn’t included in our Ice World tour. After visiting the facility, we can firmly recommend not going for reasons I detail below. The conditions the animals live in aren’t conducive to their mental health or survival, and the bus ride and walk around the compound felt more like a spectacle for making money rather than a center dedicated to caring for an endangered species.

Siberian Tigers, also known as Amur Tigers, once roamed freely throughout Korean, Northern China, Eastern Mongolia, and parts of Russia. Today, they’re one of the most endangered animals in the world, but their numbers are slowly growing supposedly thanks, in part, to conservation efforts such as this “research, welfare, and breeding facility” that we visited.

Doubtful Disney would approve.

Built in 1986, the 1,200,000 sq meter park consists of five sections for its 600 or so captive animals: Adult Tiger Garden, Adult Tiger Breeding Garden, Tiger Cub Garden, Lion Garden, and the Walking Area.

From the get-go, you’re inundated with images of tigers everywhere, from realistic to fanciful tiger sculptures to rows of tiger souvenirs and photos of celebrities holding baby tigers, lest you forget where you are.

We were taken on the “Exhilarating Experience” bus that had buckets of frozen chicken pieces that visitors could pay 100 kuai to shove through the bus’s window bars with metal tongs for the tigers to come eat. You’re essentially driven through these fenced-in compounds through multiple gates (Jurassic Park-esque), stopping every once in a while, to gaze upon the gloomy barren landscape at the tigers within and wait for them to come up to the bus for food.

When hungry tigers came up to the bus, there’d be frenzy as the human workers would come around and try to unscrew the window latching to raise the glass while tourists would scramble over each other to take videos and pictures. While it was neat and intimidating to see a tiger up close, it was also painful to watch tourists tease the tigers with food. These majestic creatures deserved to be treated so much better.

This went on for about an hour, as we passed through gated areas with young adult tigers, another of lions, and older tigers. Our guide did her best to translate all the while, but it was hard to pay attention once you started noticing the disrepair and neglect of some of the enclosures.

A rare White Tiger paces back and forth in its pen.

The guilt for being here and sadness we felt for the tigers got significantly worse as the bus ride ended and we were taken up an elevated boardwalk. On the bridge overlooking one larger area with tigers, tourists could pay to feed them more meat pieces or live chickens. There, too, we saw overcrowding in dirt pens with dried-out pools for water, and viewed even more giant cats in rows of small cages of steel and concrete. African Lions, Tigers, Ligers, Pumas, and a lone white tiger were separated by metal wire fences. They had nothing to keep themselves busy, no toys or interesting things in their enclosure – just dirt, concrete and a small wooden hut for shade.

Having witnessed the abusive conditions here, it’s cemented in my mind that this facility does not care about animal rights and is more concerned with making money off tourists. One could distinctly hear the sad cries, and watch the animals pacing in their tiny enclosures. I can’t imagine having to spend my day in a tiny cell. Imagine how torturous it must be like for them! That, combined with how loud and obnoxious the Chinese tourists were allowed to behave, made for a very sad and dismal atmosphere for these beautiful creatures. They deserve much better.

A White Tiger sleeps in a wooden hut.

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