January 4, 2011

Siberian Tiger Dies In Tehran

A Siberian Tiger offered to Iran last year in a swap deal with Russia has died from an illness which, according to one official, it contracted before it came to Tehran, reports said on Monday.

The tiger was housed at Tehran's Eram Zoo since April after Russia gave it to Iran along with a Siberian tigress in exchange for two Persian leopards.

The tiger had been infected with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Hooshang Ziaee, an advisor to Iran's Environmental Protection Organization, told ISNA News agency. He was not able to determine when the tiger died, however.

"The preliminary laboratory tests show that the Siberian tiger.... tested positive for FIV," said Ziaee, adding that a Bengal tiger and five other lions at the zoo also tested positive for the disease.

"The final cause for the death of the Siberian tiger was that it and other felines fed on diseased donkeys," he said.

However, Eram zoo director Amir Elhami said the tiger was already infected with FIV before arriving at the zoo, and also denied that other animals in the zoo contracted the virus.

"The doctors tested the dead feline and have concluded that it already had immunodeficiency which means he was vulnerable to any disease," Fars news agency said, quoting Elhami.

"None of the other animals in the zoo have FIV and so it is clear that before the tiger was transferred to the zoo, it had this disease. In the past few days we also tested our lions (for FIV), but none of them have the disease," he said.

The two tigers were traded from Russia as part of Iran's efforts to bring back the species which had become extinct 50 years earlier in the country, Ziaee said. He said the tigress was healthy.

Russia accepted the two leopards in order to re-introduce the species, extinct in its region since the beginning of the 20th century.