Greek veterinarians are fighting to save a white tiger cub abandoned in a rubbish bin at an Athens zoo.
The three-month old white tiger, who was found thin and dehydrated on February 28, is believed to be a victim of the illegal wildlife trade.
“It is the first time ever we had such an animal dumped outside our zoo,” said zoo founder Jean-Jacques Lesueur.
“I mean we had a number of cases of animals dumped, but usually these are abandoned pets — puppies, kittens, tortoises … but a tiger? Never.”
A team of veterinary surgeons helped with the cub's check-up and CT scan earlier this week.
“When I first saw the cub, I couldn't believe what I was seeing in front of me. I honestly couldn't believe that an animal was in such a state,” said wildlife veterinary surgeon Arsinoi Psaroudaki.
“She was probably fed an improper diet, and she is severely deficient in vitamins and minerals, and this makes her bones extremely fragile.”
X-rays also showed a metal pin has been placed in one of the cub's back legs.
Mr Lesueur said if the tiger survives, it will have to be relocated to a sanctuary, as the zoo has no other animals of its kind. International wildlife and animal welfare organisations have already contacted the zoo to help, he said.
The zoo's head keeper for cats, Andrea Cerny, said due to their size, diet and aggressiveness, tigers were difficult to care for.
“A tiger definitely cannot be a pet. It is a very dangerous animal, with a very big killing instinct,” she said. “Most of these pet tigers are going to be abandoned or killed.”
The tiger was left under a rubbish bin in the car park at Attica Zoological Park by a cleaner, who notified the zoo owner.
The zoo's security camera video shows a vehicle driving up to the bins before midnight the previous night. Authorities were trying to trace the licence plates, said Mr Lesueur.
The wildlife trade in Europe is a billion-euro business, according to Europol, and Asia and Africa are common origins of exotic animals sold to European buyers.
“We know that animals enter Greece illegally — snakes, tigers, like this one, it is not the first time a tiger has entered,” said Maria Ganoti, head of Greek wildlife rescue association Anima, which has often cared for wild animals that have been abandoned.
“These usually come from entry points like Turkey, or Cyprus, but Greece has started to become an entry gate for the rest of Europe.”