The untimely demise of seven young tigers training to be stars at a Russian circus could have been due to poisoning, their trainers said.
"We seriously suspect they've been poisoned. It is deviltry, pure and simple," trainer Karina Bagdasarova said.
Seven young tigers died after entering training at the Moscow-based Nikulin Circus over the past six months. The circus was touring Russian cities at the time to mark its 90th anniversary.
None of the animals had any health problems. The autopsy brought up no poisons, but some harmful substances are known to completely dissolve in the blood.
"We've lost our most talented tigers, three of them ready for the arena. All we've left is one tiger cub that has shown no talent so far," said Bagdasarova, who runs the circus' tiger show along with her brother Artur.
The show is down to seven adult tigers, she said.
"We're inclined to believe someone wants to rob us of our peace of mind. We perform in all (Russian) cities to great success, someone may not like it," Bagdasarova said. She named no suspects.
The Bagdasarovs utilized the help of a psychic to uncover the cause of the animals' death, but to no avail, the trainers said.
Now the case is in the hands of the Federal Inspection Service for Natural Resources Use, which pledged to look into the deaths of the tigers, an endangered species.
A tiger cub costs $3,000 to $5,000 and takes up to two years to train for arena performance.