BEIJING A rare Siberian tiger was skinned and beheaded in a Chinese provincial zoo and police are offering a reward for information leading to the killer or killers.
The remains of the female tiger, a critically endangered species, were found on Thursday in the zoo in central China's Yichang city, the official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday, citing a local forestry bureau official.
Police told local media they found the cage locks and the door to the tiger room broken, and also found four self-made anaesthetic rifles nearby, Xinhua said.
The tiger's pelt was peeled off and the limbs were chopped off from the knees, suggesting a professional slaughter, an unnamed person involved in the investigation was quoted as saying.
"It is highly possible that the killer or killers broke into the room, anaesthetized the tiger, opened the cage and then dragged the animal out of the room and butchered it," the person said.
China breeds Siberian tigers as a way to protect one of the world's most endangered species, which mostly live in northeast China and Russia.
Of the just 400 estimated to live in the wild, only 10 to 17 live in China, Xinhua said. Many hundreds live in captivity where they are popular in zoos.
Chinese treasure tiger parts for medicinal purposes. Tiger bones are used to treat everything from skin disease and convulsions to malaria and rheumatism.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu, Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)