­Suspected infection outbreak kills Iranian big cats

Teheran zoo has reportedly killed 14 lions infected with the rare bacterial disease glanders. Earlier, an Amur tiger delivered from Russia as part of a breeding program died in Iran, with glanders among one of the suspected reasons.

The 14 lions were killed after they were diagnosed with glanders, reports Iranian newspaper Jam-e Jam. The daily quotes veterinarian Houman Moloukpour as saying that zoo mismanagement has contributed to the death of the animals.

In January, a tiger from Russia died in Teheran zoo. He was one of the couple of Amur tigers given to Iran by Russia in April 2010 for a multimillion breeding program, which would repopulate northern Iran with tigers.

The local population of the Caspian tiger has been wiped out by hunters, and Iranian preservation specialists chose the Amur tiger as a replacement, since they are genetically close to the domestic big cats.

Glanders, which was named as a possible reason for the scandalous tiger death, is a lethal bacterial disease, which usually targets horses, donkeys, mules and camels. It can also infect humans who handle sick animals.

Some Iranian officials alleged that the tiger was already sick when it arrived to Teheran. Russian officials and members of the World Wildlife Foundation involved in the project strongly rejected the claim.