MOSCOW, FEB. 8 -- Newspapers love animal stories, and even better, short animal stories. So here it is: the economic collapse of the Soviet Union starring Boy the elephant from the Ukraine, and the hungry tigers of Chelyabinsk.

Boy, the star of the Kiev zoo, is an enormous pachyderm, the biggest bull elephant on the European continent. But it seems he cannot find a mate, not for love or hard currency.

This item from this morning's issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda:

"An elephant needs a lifelong partner. Otherwise, Boy will smash his enclosure. But a girlfriend costs about $50,000. Of course, neither Boy nor the directors of the zoo have that kind of money."

As a result, the Kiev zoo is quintupling its ticket price from 20 kopecks to a ruble. The price hike will obviously be a burden for the animal lovers of the Ukraine, but considering the ruble's near nil value on world currency markets, it will take a long time to save up enough cash to buy a girl for Boy.

So much for the complexities of financial reform. And now, the food problem.

In the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk, the newspaper Gudok reports that one of the circus tigers attacked the trainer, a fellow named Bagdasarov. It turns out there was a reason the tigers were so annoyed.

A team of accountants from the Soviet State Circus Agency looked over the ledger books and discovered the circus animals had eaten 26 tons more than their ration of meat for the past two years.

"What is more, half of it was high-grade sirloin," Gudok complained hungrily.

At first the accountants blamed the tigers. But the tigers were neither fat nor greedy. Then it hit them: meat shortages ... circus trainers ... theft!

"Who really did eat the meat?" the paper wonders, its eyebrow arched high.

Go ask the tigers.