The zoo worker who allegedly smuggled two tiger cubs across the border and kept them in her bathtub faces court today accused of breaching EU border rules.
The 34-year-old Slovakian woman allegedly smuggled the one-week old tiger babies from Slovakia to a flat in in Hainburg an der Donau a town in the Bruck an der Leitha district, in Lower Austria. The police were tipped off via animal rescuers who had received information about the tigers.
The tigers were rescued and taken to Schoenbrunn Zoo in the Austrian capital of Vienna, but died a short while later.
If found guilty in the trial which starts today (Monday) at the court in Korneuburg, which is a town in Austria, located in the state Lower Austria, the woman could face two years in jail.
According to her lawyer Wolfgang Blaschitz, the woman will plead not guilty.
The woman will not face more severe animal cruelty charges after an investigation found there was no evidence of animal cruelty towards the tigers, according to Korneuburg Public Prosecuor spokesman Friedrich Kohl.
When police officers raided the flat, they found the two cubs Sangha and Kumal inside the bath, underneath a UV lamp and in a serious condition.
According to police, the woman who lives in the flat was very experienced with animals and had worked at a zoo.
She claimed she was going to get treatment for the tigers from an Austrian vet the following day.
She reportedly admitted that she had brought the animals to Austria over the border from Slovakia and claimed she did not know that keeping such animals is illegal.
The cross-border transport of tigers is regulated by tough EU laws.
The Slovak woman, identified only as 34-year-old animal carer Yagmut S. said she had acted as she did because it was an emergency.
She said the two tiger cubs had been taken ill at the zoo where she helped out on the outskirts of the Slovak capital because their mother had rejected them.
When the situation worsened she had not wanted to leave them alone overnight.
She also said she believed that there might be better access to animal care in Austria.
Her son posted on social media about having tiger cubs in the bathtub.
Martina Pluda from Four Paws said in a statement: “It is shocking that these tigers which are only a few days old have been separated from their mother. They are far too young to be separated. Keeping wild big cats is illegal in Austria. Only zoos are allowed to have them. This is just another example of many illegally kept animals. It is really sad.”
She added: “Breeding and trading tigers is not forbidden in the EU. There is too little documentation about how many tigers are being kept in captivity, where they are being traded and about when they die.”
She also said: “Tigers are endangered and need more protection. The EU needs to do something to make sure that there is no market for tigers and their body parts in Europe. Only when this happens, can they contribute to the protection of wild tigers in Asia and help in the fight against the illegal trade of wild animals.”
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