A heavily drugged tiger cub was the star attraction at the opening night of Russia’s Tigre de Cristal casino, a reality that caused outrage among the local populace once it got out. Siberian tigers are revered and endangered.
Dignitaries mingled with Russian celebs and journalists from Moscow, all of whom had come to feast their eyes on the opulence of Lawrence Ho’s $900 million resort on the country’s south east coast, close to the border with China and North Korea. But an outcry has erupted in the region’s local press over one of the “acts” that night, a Siberian tiger cub called “Crystal” that was paraded around the casino under bright lights and blaring music, which the casino has admitted was heavily sedated.
A casino source said that “for security purposes, so Crystal would not bite anybody, she was given a sedative. “The tigress still is small,” added the source, “so it was impossible to do an injection. The vet came and gave her liquid medicine in a bottle. She slept all the time.”
However, regional media source Vostokmedia accused the casino management of misjudging the public mood, because many people in Primorsky region revere the endangered Siberian tiger, of which there are only 500 or so left in the wild, and are devoted to its preservation.
“It is unlikely that locals understand when a live tiger cub is carried around and put under the limelight with loud music to the delight of the crowd,” said Vostokmedia, adding that the incident will damage the casino’s reputation in the area.
Sergei Aramilev, of the Amur Tiger Centre, demanded to know what kind of sedative was used on the tigress.
“There are cases when pet owners give a sleeping pills to the animals. We need to understand exactly in each case, to learn from veterinarians, what was the medicine and what might be the consequences. Is it harmful to the animal, is it addictive? In terms of moral and ethical aspects, it is not good.”
Local police are currently investigating exactly which drugs were administered to the animal, which is currently housed in a local zoo.
Casinos Vs. Animal Rights
The case highlights the wider issue of animals being kept by casinos for entertainment purposes, something that has long been opposed by animal rights groups. While Russia recently banned the practice of using chimpanzees as “casino mascots,” for example, the legislation left many such animals on the career scrapheap. Media recently highlighted the case of one such ex-casino chimp that had been sent to “rehab” for his addiction to alcohol and tobacco.
In the US, there have been recent demonstrations against the Mirage’s Dolphin Habitat, which protesters say is too small and, according to one, akin to human beings spending their lives in a bath.
And earlier this month, Daniel Negreanu, who works closely with animal rights group PETA, wrote to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino demanding it denounce the nearby Cherokee Bear Zoo’s “concrete prison,” where bears, he said, are kept in “horrendous conditions” in barren pits.