What was meant to be an adorable stunt putting an apex predator together with a fluffy household pet nearly turned into a disaster, with disturbing videos online showing a tiger cub attacking a rabbit during a Chinese zoo’s New Year handover.
A video posted on Chinese social media network Weibo shows the tiger cub biting a rabbit as zookeepers at Linfen Zoo in the Shanxi province celebrate the symbolic passing of the zodiac baton for Chinese New Year, 2023. While 2022 was the year of the tiger, 2023 is the year of the rabbit, so the holding of the two animals symbolized “a Tiger-Rabbit Handover Ceremony” to mark the passing of the torch this Chinese New Year, which fell on Sunday, January 22.
The footage shows two zookeepers holding the animals in their arms, but held close together. Although both animals were docile on their own, when the tiger was in close proximity of the rabbit, it quickly sniffed it before stretching its paws and opening it mouth to grab hold of the bunny.
The shocked staff shouted for the animals to stop and pulled them apart before the video cut off.
The rabbit was okay, according to multiple local news reports, but if the staff hadn’t stopped the attack quickly, there could have been bloodshed.
To avoid any further confrontation, the staff held the animals separately and not close together, while marking the new year with a few words. The rabbit looked visibly shaken.
Newsweek has contacted Panthera, a big cats conservation NGO, for comment on the incident.
Tigers are carnivores and often hunt much bigger animals than rabbits, so the opportunistic attack was hardly surprising.
Only last week, a tiger escaped from a farm in South Africa, attacked a man and killed several other animals. The 39-year-old man survived the attack at a private farm near Johannesburg, local media reported, but he was taken to hospital. A deer and dog were killed, and a second dog was so badly injured by the tiger that the canine had to be put down, community police said. The tigress, called Sheba, was on the loose for a few days before she was euthanized.
Earlier in January, a man’s half-eaten body was found in a field in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India, after being mauled to death by a tiger. India is home to around 60 percent of the world’s tigers. The big cats used to roam around the subcontinent, but due to human-tiger conflicts, many of them have been forced into the country’s 50 tiger reserves.