8 Russian circus tigers and a lioness die during 20-hour truck journey across Siberia

By Sergei Venyavsky, AP
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

8 Russian circus tigers, lioness die during travel

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Eight tigers and a lioness belonging to a Russian traveling circus died during a 20-hour truck journey across Siberia, police said Tuesday.

The animals were dead when they arrived early Tuesday in the city of Yakutsk, police spokesman Nikolai Sizykh said. No cause has been determined, but among the possibilities under investigation are poisoning from exhaust fumes or food poisoning, he said.

Overheating was a third possible cause, said Yevgeny Yudashkin, an administrator of the private Mechta circus based in the southern city of Krasnodar.

Another circus employee, who was not authorized to speak to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said although the truck was supposed to be opened every two hours for ventilation, this was not done.

A Doberman dog traveling in the same truck as the Indian tigers and the lioness survived, Yudashkin said. Dogs and a bear traveling in a second truck arrived healthy, he said.

The news portal Kursor.ru showed photographs of the dead tigers, one piled on top of another in a cage. Some had their abdomens cut open, which the site said was done for toxicology tests.

The animals had performed in Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East and were traveling to Yakutsk, a journey of about 1,400 miles (2,400 kilometers), to perform in holiday shows.

They were last seen alive in the city of Neryungri, 510 miles (820 kilometers) from Yakutsk, a 20-hour drive. The temperature in the region was minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 36 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday and the animals were in an enclosed, heated truck.

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