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Zoo Gives Absurd Explanation For Shocking Lion And Tiger Pictures

After troubling photos surfaced showing an emaciated lion and tiger at the Beijing Zoo, officials had a pretty lame response - that the animals aren't going hungry ... they're just inbred.

The photos were posted on a Chinese social media site on Monday, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reports. They show a white Bengal tiger and an African lion in their separate enclosures - both appearing bony and hunched over.

The images caused such a stir that the Beijing Zoo was forced to respond, apparently telling a Chinese newspaper that the animals were being cared for, but "most lions in zoos nowadays were the results of inbreeding and tended to have genetic defects," SCMP reports.

But other outlets are reporting that the zoo itself admits the animals are underweight. Peng Zhenxin, a director at the zoo, told the People's Daily that the 9-year-old lion weighs about 130 pounds less than average - a startling gap.

"We are also trying to improve [the lion's] health by exercise and nutrition," Zhenxin said. "However there's been no significant improvement in its weight."

A zoo official also told the Beijing Times that the Bengal tiger "was also the result of inbreeding among a small group of white Bengal tigers and was smaller than wild tigers," SCMP reports.

For whatever reason, both big cats appear to be unwell and undersized compared to their cousins in the wild. As things stand now, if the Beijing Zoo can't keep its animals healthy, then it shouldn't keep animals at all.