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Tigers in the Snow

When Sami heard that visiting the Siberian tigers in their special preserve on Sun Island would be part of our tour, she couldn’t wait to see them!

These tigers are, of course, endangered, and the animals in the preserve are being bred for release into the wild. As is typical with Chinese attractions, there was no information at the preserve about the animals: how many there were, how the release program was going, etc. etc. – basic facts one expects to learn.

The entire activity involved boarding reinforced mini-vans for an off-road drive through a series of large, fenced-in areas where the tigers roamed. And despite the total lack of context, the animals were magnificent.

All the kids on the bus were completely captivated, yelling with excitement at every move the tigers made.

As soon as our vans pulled into the enclosure, the tigers bounded toward us.

We soon we found out why: our group had paid 60 yuan for a live chicken to be released for the tigers to snack on!

In this photo, one of the big cats has jumped up and snapped its jaws at the chicken - it's the dark blob just in front of the tiger's nose. The bird got away this time, flying off to seek refuge on a small hillock with a few trees.

Unfortunately for the bird, more tigers were lying in wait on the hill, and one quickly turned the bird into a meal.

Miranda had been uneasy at the prospect of witnessing the slaughter, but it was over so fast and with so little fuss that she barely registered the event.

After viewing the bird buffet, we continued to drive through several other enclosures, each filled with different kinds of tigers, and then, some lions!

Just as the spectacle of tigers lazing around threatened to get a little ho-hum, we were dropped off at an enclosed walkway that led through the pens of younger, year-old tigers, including some rare white tigers.

Our group included two small kids in strollers, who instantly attracted the tigers’ attention as potential prey. This was remarkable to watch. As we walked up, the tigers were hanging out on a little hill about 30 yards away. They were actually yawning. Then, when one of the parents pushed a baby stroller close to the fence so the kid could get a better view, the tigers raced over and jumped up, in (literally) the blink of an eye. Wow!

And that was the end of our tour: about 45 minutes, all told, with a quick pause at the end for an up-close-and-personal encounter.

As weird, in its way, as seeing the Songhua swimmers, since we were left with more questions than answers about what we’d seen.

Next, our ice dream came true at the lantern festival


Harbin chapter shortcuts: Intro Train Wonders Sculptures Tigers Ice Dreams Sunday Stroll

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