Iran says a Siberian tiger that died in Tehran two weeks ago was already infected with a fatal respiratory disease when delivered by Russian officials.
Siberian tiger in Tehran zoo (May 2010 file photo)
Russia gave the tiger to Iran in April 2010 along with a Siberian tigress in
exchange for two Persian leopards. But the male jungle cat died in late December
due to what Iran's Environmental Protection Organization described as Feline
Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
Amir Elhami, the manager of Eram Zoo in the Iranian capital said, "The Russian tiger which had been brought to the country was itself a carrier of glanders and did not catch the disease in Iran."
Elhami confirmed that no sign of glanders has been detected among the other animals residing in the zoo, including the Russian tigress, IRNA reported.
The zoo manager expressed dismay at the officials' prejudgment and rumors of food poisoning and negligence shrouding the tiger's death and described the zoo's performance as unique in the past five decades.
He also criticized the officials for rushing to sign an agreement with Russian counterparts and collecting the big cats without proper investigation into their health record.
Elhami said the swap should not have taken place given the unfavorable environmental conditions in comparison with the animal's natural habitat back in Russia.
"Unfortunately...only after the tigers were delivered, officials in the Environmental Protection Organization started fretting about where the animals should be kept," he said.
Following an agreement between officials, the Siberian cats were temporarily held in the same cage along with two African lions.
The lions, used to warmer climates, died after their cage was cooled down to a temperature favored by the tigers.
Elhami suggested that officials in Moscow may have already been aware of the tiger's ailment but swapped the animal, hiding its health problem.
He also pointed out that contrary to claims by Russian officials, the Siberian tigress was not pregnant.
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