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Girl, 3, walks tightrope — over Siberian tigers

The tiny figure of a 3-year-old girl wavered and wobbled on one foot, her little arms outstretched in an effort to maintain her balance on the tightrope. Below the diminutive daredevil, nine Siberian tigers — hungry Siberian tigers — looked up at her as if waiting for a snack to fall out of the sky.The scene unfolded at a zoo in China, where an aerialist act has thrilled — and offended — s
/ Source: TODAY contributor

The tiny figure of a 3-year-old girl wavered and wobbled on one foot, her little arms outstretched in an effort to maintain her balance on the tightrope. Below the diminutive daredevil, nine Siberian tigers — hungry Siberian tigers — looked up at her as if waiting for a snack to fall out of the sky.

The scene unfolded at a zoo in China, where an aerialist act has thrilled — and offended — spectators with acts of derring-do performed on a 50-meter-long tightrope stretched 29 feet above the tigers’ habitat. Although there are other elements to the act, the unquestioned star is Xiaoyan, whose father has billed her as the world’s youngest tightrope walker.

Entertainment or torture?

In a video that seems destined to go viral, Xiaoyan actually is blown off the wire by high winds. Only a cable shackled to the high wire and attached to a harness prevented her from becoming tiger chow. According to a story in the British newspaper The Daily Mail, spectators screamed when she lost her balance.

“If she was my child, I would never let her do anything like that, no matter how talented she is,” the newspaper quoted a spectator as saying.