A nine-year-old girl from southeast China has become inseparable from her unusual pet, a young tiger cub.
Sun Xiaojing, a zookeeper’s daughter, started playing with the cub when it was born three months ago and has become firm friends with it since then, Quanzhou Evening Post reported.
“She has been feeding the cub bottled milk, bathing and playing with it,” said Xiaojing’s father, who is a zookeeper at Donghu Zoo in downtown Quanzhou, a coastal city in Fujian province.
Xiaojing named the cub Huniu, which means “tiger girl” in Chinese.
Sun told the newspaper: “My daughter’s classmates think tigers are scary but Huniu is her friend.
“Huniu is really playful and likes to be scratched on the belly.
“She runs to my daughter the moment she comes back from school.”
Sun lives near the zoo with his family, allowing Xiaojing to spend most of her spare time with Huniu.
The cub was separated from its parents – two nine-year-old Siberian tigers – after two siblings were accidentally smothered by their mother, a common risk with tigers.
Citizens in Quanzhou, a coastal city in the southeastern province of Fujian, have been flocking to the zoo to see Xiaojing and her unusual pet after news spread on social media about the two.
But some have expressed concerns about visitors’ safety as the tiger cub is allowed out of its cage on a leash.
“Huniu is a beast after all,” a local resident surnamed Lin told the Quanzhou Evening Post. “They better put her in a cage.”
Another visitor said that as a legally protected animal, the tiger should not be treated as a pet.
Sun said he will put Huniu, which eats 2kg (4.4lb) of raw beef every day, in a cage next month when its teeth start to harden, making it a potential threat to visitors.