Singapore animal groups growl over 8 Days' 'tiger skin' shots

Victoria Vaughan, Straits Times 13 Feb 10;

ANIMAL conservation groups and others are up in arms after pictures featuring Singapore actress Wong Li-Lin draped in a tiger pelt appeared in the weekly celebrity magazine 8 Days.

Among the strongest reactions were those from Singapore's branch of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), which has asked MediaCorp, the magazine's publisher, to print an apology.

Others criticised the magazine for sending the wrong message about a highly endangered animal.
It is not known if the pelt was real: MediaCorp declined to answer when asked.

But WWF Singapore's managing director, Ms Amy Ho, said that whether it is real or not is beside the point.

'It sends out the wrong message about tigers and could encourage the wrong type of behaviour,' she said.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, 8 Days' editor-in-chief, Ms Lau Kuan Wei, said the magazine regrets any offence caused.

Saying the pelt was loaned to 8 Days for the shoot, she added: 'We do not condone the harming of animals, and the realistic appearance of the tiger skin in the photos should in no way be construed as such.'

Ms Lau said the magazine has also received letters expressing concern about the pictures, and that it was taking the feedback seriously.

When contacted, Ms Wong, 38, claimed the tiger skin was not real - 'you could tell, it had a lining underneath', she said - and added that she had no problems doing the shoot.

'I could see why they wanted to do it as it's the Year of the Tiger. They didn't kill the tiger for the shoot any more than they killed the cow for the shot of the food. I can guarantee no animal was hurt during the shoot.'

Ms Wong said it was unfortunate that animal welfare groups were upset.

But others begged to differ.

Professor Leo Tan, director of special projects at the National University of Singapore, said: 'The tiger skin looks real to me. In any case, the message is in bad taste.'

The head of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Professor Peter Ng, agreed.

'Good grief! This is certainly not what I call a suitable way to usher in the Biodiversity Year or even the Year of the Tiger, for that matter... it is in very bad taste.

'Regardless of whether it's real or fake, it sends out the wrong message - that it's the 'in' thing to frolic with tiger skins.'

Added Mr Howard Shaw, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council: 'Parading a dead flagship conservation species to celebrate its Chinese New Year symbolism not only seems highly inauspicious, but is also a reminder of how far we still need to go to win hearts, and especially minds, in the conservation battle.'

Tigers are highly endangered. There are only about 3,200 left in the wild.

8 DAYS editor responds
Today Online 13 Feb 10;

SINGAPORE - The editor-in-chief of 8 DAYS magazine has responded to concerns raised by conservationist groups over its use of photographs featuring actress Wong Li-Lin draped in a tiger pelt.

"The tiger pelt was loaned to 8 DAYS specifically for the shoot," said Ms Lau Kuan Wei.

"We do not condone the harming of animals, and the realistic appearance of the tiger skin in the photos should in no way be construed as such.

"We have received a few letters expressing concerns over the lack of political correctness. Please be assured that we do not take this feedback lightly, and regret any unintended offence caused," she added.

WWF Singapore's managing director, Ms Amy Ho, said that "whether the tiger skin used is real or not, the photographs demonstrate a lack of sensitivity to the plight of dwindling tiger populations in the wild".

Ms Wong's photographs, she added, could convey to the magazine's readers that "tiger skin as a fashion item is acceptable". "It is not," Ms Ho said.