Travel Report: Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, China.
February 2010. Visitors come to the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin for its stunning Russian architecture and the world’s most impressive Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival. Less well known, but equally fascinating in its own way, is the eerie Harbin Siberian Tiger Park, situated 14 km outside the city centre.
With as few as 500 Siberian tigers left in the wild, this park plays a crucial role in preserving the breed. Apparently they have around eight hundred beasts living throughout the park’s 250 acres.
Furthermore, there are a handful of pumas and leopards. Jeez, when you gotta clean you gotta clean, no matter who may be watching!
A self-guided walking tour around the park takes you through a sizeable collection of tiger enclosures.
Although the animals look healthy enough and seem content in their habitat, I remember the place being undeniably run-down. I’m talking shabby enclosures, rusty bars and a distinct lack of plants and trees.
Harbin Siberian Tiger Park.
Most visitors here take the short bus tour right through the heart of the grounds where the tigers roam freely. It’s common for many of the residents to come running over and jump up at the windows with a playful thud. Admittedly this is quite the thrill! As a result, quite a few of the Chinese tourists were actually shrieking in terror.
Harbin Siberian Tiger Park is certainly a controversial place due to a key attraction on offer to tourists. If you feel so inclined, one can actually feed the tigers. The first option is to pay for a piece of raw meat from these red buckets. Just grab a tong, poke it through a gap in the fence and watch as the tigers come leaping towards you!
This doesn’t sound too bad right? However, in addition to dangling meat one can also choose from a Jurassic Park style menu that includes live chickens, cows, goats, sheep, ducks and pheasants. Needless to say this experience is not for everyone! In contrast, the Chinese tourists absolutely loved it when they realised a foreigner was about to liberate this unfortunate chicken.
In recent years travel bloggers and animal rights activists have warned people away from the park with some damning articles. An example comes via this piece from Nomadasaurus.
No chickens were harmed in the writing of this article!
Like these? Then why not take a look at my zillion reports from all around China.
And I’ve written a short story series called Challenged In China.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.