Warsaw (AFP) - Polish prosecutors said Monday they have charged two Italian truck drivers with animal abuse after the men took 10 tigers on a gruelling journey through Europe that left one tiger dead and the others "emaciated" and "without the will to live".
The trip is believed to have been organised by Russian citizen Vakhitov F., whom prosecutors charged with animal abuse last week after the truck got stuck for days on the border with Belarus after setting off from Italy on October 22.
The nine tigers that survived the journey were taken in by two Polish zoos last week.
"The two drivers Marco A. and Alessio D. jointly abused the tigers by failing to provide them with enough food and water, which led to the death of one of the tigers," said Agnieszka Kepka, spokeswoman for the regional prosecutor's office, quoted by the Polish news agency PAP.
The regional court rejected a prosecution request to detain the Italian men, who deny the accusations against them.
The ill-fated trip began near Rome. The tigers were meant to be a gift from a breeding facility to a zoo in Russia's Dagestan Republic, according to local media.
But they did not make it that far. On October 26 the tigers got stranded at the Polish border post with Belarus in the eastern village of Koroszczyn for four days, unable to leave their cages.
Belarussian customs officials said the veterinary documents presented by the drivers were insufficient, and one of them had an expired visa.
A zoo in the western Polish city of Poznan welcomed seven of the tigers last week, while a facility in the northern town of Czluchow took in the other two.
Once they recover, the animals will be sent to a special facility in Spain.
The Poznan zoo said on their Facebook page last week that its employees discovered "a real nightmare" at the border post.
"The tigers were emaciated, dehydrated, with sunken eyes, excrement stuck to their fur, urine burns, in a total state of stress, without the will or desire to live... Maltreated, suffering and humiliated," the zoo said.