NEW DELHI - Nine emaciated and distressed tigers transported from Italy to the Poland-Belarus border are safe now, but the case exposed a cruel, shadowy trade in exotic animals destined for Asia. The discovery last October shocked EwaZgrabczynska, director of Poznan Zoo in Poland, which is looking after four of them. The other five were taken in by an animal welfare centre called Primadomus, near Alicante in southern Spain. The tigers were starving, thirsty and filthy after a 2,000km (1,243-mile) road journey to Belarus. A tenth one did not survive. The survival of the other nine was just good luck: the Belarus border guards were suspicious about the animal transporter’s paperwork and refused to let it through. The tigers endured more than two days on the road in these small cages The animal transport lorry, driven by two Italians, was totally unsuited for the tigers crammed in there: it was the type used for carrying horses or cattle. ‘A real nightmare’ BBC Russian has established that they were bound for an unlicensed zoo in distant Dagestan, in Russia’s Caucasus. But the question is: did the final customer want them dead or alive? Poznan Zoo described its horror on Facebook: “Our employees arrived at the scene to discover a real nightmare. The tigers have excrement stuck to their fur and are tired and hungry. Our veterinarian says their condition is appalling.”