One of the coolest things we did in Harbin was go to the Manchurian Tiger Park. I felt kind of guilty, because animals in captivity are always a bit depressing, but these kind of tigers are going extinct -- so, on one hand, it's good that they're being bred. The park has about 500 tigers currently.
When you first walk in, you are given the option of buying food for the tigers. A live chicken is on the cheaper side (40 kuai), while feeding them cattle is a little bit pricier. One of my regrets is that we didn't buy any food. The perverse side of me thinks it would have been so much fun to watch a tiger tear apart a live pheasant.
Jess and I piled into a little bus with a bunch of other Chinese tourists. Here's her "we're going to go see some tigers!" look.
And see tigers, we did! They were so close, it was pretty amazing.
Lest you think they are just chilling in the unspoiled wilderness, here is a more realistic view of their habitat.
We also saw some ligers. I thought Napoleon Dynamite made those up, but it's true: you can cross a tiger with a lion and you get a "liger"!
After thoroughly bothering the tigers, we got out and walked through a pathway full of other animals in higher states of captivity.
While the tigers have quite a bit of space to roam, these animals were caged up in pretty small areas, which was lousy. As I said, animals in captivity are always a little sad, because they lack a life purpose (protecting themselves from predators, hunting for food) and so they end up just pacing endlessly. Moreover, while the tigers are well-suited for the cold weather, there were some animals in the park that are definitely indigenous to warmer climates and I'd hate to think how uncomfortable they must be in temperatures well below freezing.
But selfishly, I must say: it was awesome. I'll end with a few more awesome tiger shots, courtesy of Jess. Her photos turned out gorgeously.