"Admit it, this is you after Chinese New Year," said a caption of photographs of Siberian tigers at The Siberian Tiger Park near Harbin city in China's northernmost Heilongjiang province. The post was shared on Sina Weibo on February 2, 2017, and within few days went viral.
According to a report by Strait Times, till February 7, 2917, the post was already shared more than 1,400 times, liked more than 9,400 times and drawn more than a thousand comments.
These weren't any normal big cats in wild which are agile and nimble. They were obese and drastically overfed, which were rolling on the floor. Forget hunting their own food, they can barely move around for an hour.
The photos of these adoringly cute animals have sparked outrage on the social media.
After these photos came to light, debate over the health of these tigers gripped people online and conservationists across the world. These photos raised some serious concerns about the health condition of these animals.
As the concern grew stronger, the Siberian Tiger Park came forward to defend its "chubby" tigers by posting photos of the animals looking considerably slimmer, reported NetEase website. Adding that the animals are indeed looking majestic, the authorities blamed camera angles for making the tigers look chubby and challenged people to see the tigers for themselves.
A South China Morning Post report on Tuesday (Feb 7) mentioned that the feline creatures eat more during winters to keep the cold away. As per the report, the tigers should slim down by summer. The report further mentioned that the temperatures in Harbin can drop to -38 deg C in January, with summer temperatures rising to just 20 deg C.
On the other hand, local newspaper Harbin Daily reported that these tigers had gained weight after 2010 with the increase in zoo visitors, who liked to feed the tigers. The Siberian Tiger Park, set up in 1996, allows visitors to feed strips of beef to the tigers after payment. Tourists also push live chickens to the tiger's enclave which may explain the animals' obesity.
However, not everyone agrees with the stand taken by the park authorities.
Chris Draper, associate director of animal welfare and care at the Born Free Foundation, told The Dodo, "While the obesity might not create an immediate problem for them, it would restrict their movement, give them problems with their joints and their limbs, feet and their ability to walk. They'd also have problems interacting with each other. There'd be stress and strain on their physiology, just as being obese does in humans."