Circus Tigers and Lioness Found Dead

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Circus Tigers and Lioness Found Dead

From TheScotsman.Scotsman.com
December 2009

Another circus employee said the lorry should have been opened every two hours for ventilation, but was not.

About 70 circuses in Russia still receive state funding.

Eight circus tigers and a lioness died during a 20-hour journey in an enclosed and heated lorry across Siberia, and Russian police are investigating whether they might have been suffocated by exhaust fumes or sickened with food poisoning.

The animals were dead when they arrived yesterday in the city of Yakutsk, where they had been due to perform in holiday shows, a police spokesman said.

A third possible cause of death may have been overheating in the truck, the Mechta circus administrator Yevgeny Kudashkin said. Another circus employee said the lorry should have been opened every two hours for ventilation, but was not.

A doberman dog travelling in the same truck survived. More dogs and a bear travelling in a second truck arrived healthy.

Circuses, popular in Russia since the 19th century, thrived under Soviet rule, with state circus schools training generations of acrobats, clowns and animal trainers. There are still permanent circuses in dozens of cities and town.

The private Mechta, or Dream, circus based in the southern city of Krasnodar, had been performing in the far-eastern region of Khabarovsk before moving on to Yakutsk.

The big cats were last seen alive about 510 miles from Yakutsk in the city of Neryungri. Temperatures in Yakutsk were about -36C on Tuesday.

Russian World Wildlife Fund official Natalya Dronova said the transportation of animals was tightly controlled in circuses under the umbrella of the Russian State Circus Company, the successor of the Soviet-era agency.

Private circuses, however, were not sufficiently regulated, the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency quoted her as saying.

About 70 circuses in Russia still receive state funding.