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The draw of getting to see a live tiger up close and person is easily understood. There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of these gorgeous big cats in the wild. While we may love our house cats, there is something about how exotic and different their much larger, wild counterparts are that entices us to want to see them for ourselves. But of course, going about seeing a tiger in the wild is more complicated than one might think. Firstly, tigers are highly endangered and only a few thousand exist in their native habitats. And secondly, tigers are incredibly dangerous. If you were to stop and consider the size and power of their teeth and claws you would certainly rethink approaching one in the wild.

But, when in captivity, the game changes entirely. More than seeing a tiger in a zoo or the circus, getting to see a tiger at a designated tourist attraction that actually allows you to interact with tigers seems like the ideal option. Take for example, the Tiger Kingdom franchise in Thailand. Boasting three facilities, these parks not only allow you to view tigers, you can pet them, hug them, and even pose for photos with them! The popularity of tourist attractions like Tiger Kingdom has exploded across the world, while they might seem like an amazing pit stop to make on your holiday adventure, but as a Green Monster, you might want to rethink your support of these types of facilities. As with most of these money-making facilities, Tiger Kingdom is focused on turning a profit, and not focusing on the best interests of the tigers.

So, without further ado let’s take a look into Tiger Kingdom.

History of Tiger Kingdom

Tiger Kingdom has two branches in Chiang Mai and one in Phuket. According to report in The Phuket News, “The rather Disney-fied story of Thailand’s Tiger Kingdom began in the early eighties.”

As the legend goes, the owner of Thailand’s Tiger Kingdom was given a tiger cub nearly 30 years ago because its mother had been killed. The villager who found the cub gave this particular man the tiger cub because he had the land and money necessary to care for the cub. Naturally, as he acquired more animals, he needed to make more money to support them and thus the idea for Tiger Kingdom was born. The land where the initial “rescue center” was founded is not a zoo. In 2008, Chiang Mai’s Tiger Kingdom was opened. Originally, the facility was run like a standard zoo but as time went on, visitors were allowed to interact with the tigers. In fact, a group of Australian tourists is credited with starting this practice after asking if they could get close to the animals like their trainers did.

Perhaps this sparked the beginning of a new and inventive way to “make more money” for the tigers at the facility. Now guests who attend the facility are charged $15 USD per tiger they would like to interact with, there is a choice of tiger ranging from cub to adult. Thai tiger tourism has trended towards the interactive experience in recent years and as the result it is raising some suspicion in the animals welfare world. After all, how is it that these specific tigers are so docile and willing to sit quietly while guest tug at their tails and snap thousands of photos with them? While Tiger Kingdom would maintain that the gentle nature of these tigers comes from their being hand-reared by humans … there seems to be more to the story.

EXPOSED: Tiger Kingdom

Life at Tiger Kingdom

Tiger Kingdom runs a breeding program, which operates under the guise of being part of their “conservation” efforts. However, after being hand-reared these tigers can never be released into the wild, raising the question as to what the funds generated by the facility are actually going towards. Hand-reared is essentially a euphemism for saying that cubs are taken from their mothers at a young age and raised by humans instead. Doing so makes tigers completely reliant on humans for food and care, rendering them virtually unable to fend for themselves in the wild.

At around the age of two years old, the tigers are separated into a different living area, away from their younger counterparts. According to the chief customer relations officer, Pim, for the Chiang Mai branch of Tiger Kingdom, the tigers need to be separated at this age because otherwise they would be inclined to fight with one another. They wouldn’t want to encourage these animals to be wild or aggressive after all … The adolescent tigers are kept in their cages all day except when they are taken out for photos. The adult tigers are to be kept isolated in a cage, 24 hours a day – unless they are taken out for photos.

Ashley Freno, a senior campaigner for PETA Asia explains, “Most tigers in attractions like these live out their life sentence in prison-like cages, leaving these majestic and powerful creatures without any space to move and run in and trainers are always on hand, complete with bamboo sticks, to moderate tigers’ behavior if they get too ‘wild’.”

EXPOSED: Tiger Kingdomcampervan-adventures

In an interview, the head tiger trainer at Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai, told the reporter, “Each trainer is given a small bamboo stick which is used to control the tiger. If they behave badly they will be drubbed on the nose. This is how they are trained when they are very young. The stick is only used for bad behavior, but they are retrained every morning before the tourists come in.”

While documentation of abuse at Tiger Kingdom has not come to light, the training methods of tigers at other such facility have been revealed for their cruelty. An investigation into Tiger Temple, also in Thailand, found that tigers were often beaten and deprived of food and water to reinforce the dominance of their trainers. If these cats need to be systematically separated and sentenced to a solitary life to keep them “domestic” then clearly it is not in the tiger’s nature to be calm and docile around human guests.

EXPOSED: Tiger Kingdomright-tourism

The only other alternative to living out their days in solitary confinement for these tigers is to become part of the breeding program and perpetuate this cruel cycle.

EXPOSED: Tiger Kingdomjenkraska.com

Pim tells The Phuket News, “What else can we do though? We can’t release them into the wild. The truth is there is no income and no provisions to take care of them otherwise, so we need to do this.”

What You Can and MUST Do to End the Suffering

There are many tourist traps that operate under the guise of a “sanctuary” or “rescue center” for wild animals, but there are many red flags that you can look out for to be sure you are not supporting this cruelty. If the sanctuary claims to work for the conservation of the species then there should be some guarantee that the animals will one day be released into the wild. Animals that have been raised by humans and “domesticated” to act friendly towards people can never be released back to their natural habitats. Not only is it highly unlikely that they would be able to survive, their comfort around humans can lead to incredibly dangerous encounters.

Facilities that encourage you to take selfies with wild animals are also another HUGE red flag. This activity is solely aimed at exploiting the animals being held captive for profit. If you see trainers who carry sticks or weapons to “tame” the animals, this is also another sure sign that these animals have been trained to associate these sticks with pain and their sight will encourage their submissive behavior.

Now that you have learned the truth, it is your job to help inform others! Share what you’ve learned with everyone you know and post a review on the TripAdvisor page for Tiger Kingdom. If there are no tourists to pay for photos with tigers, these facilities would not exist!

Lead image source: Wikimedia Commons

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41 comments on “EXPOSED! Thailand’s Tiger Kingdom Is No Sanctuary for Animals”

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2 Months Ago

i have been to one of the tiger kingdoms in chiangmai, and after witnessing a pair of unchained tigers get into a light tussle right in front of me, while i was in their enclosure with them, i can attest that they weren\'t drugged. i didn\'t see them locked up by themselves in "cages" either. they were in outdoor enclosures (admittedly small for the roaming needs of a wild tiger), grouped together by age, with tourists and handlers there with them. tourists were only allowed to approach the tigers from the back and never touch them on their arms, legs, paws, or above the shoulders. i believe that belly rubs were ok, though. meanwhile, the handler would distract the tiger enough to where it would not even pay attention to you while you pet it. they would do things like hug and kiss the tiger on the face and wave balloons in front of it (they really are like house cats, in this regard).

they did hold a stick, but i never saw them hit the tigers with it. one of them did nudge the tiger\'s paw with a stick to get it to pose with me, though, but stopped after i told him not to. the stick is certainly there to control them, of that there is no doubt. natural necessity for a (necessarily?) unnatural situation. but conditions there were far better than tiger temple. what i don\'t have the answer for is what happens to the overflow population, as younger tigers are bred, while older ones are eventually removed to make room. i\'ve heard of canned hunting at similar lion petting zoos in africa, so the question is a bit unsettling.

i completely agree about the need to allow tigers to remain wild, but there is the question of how to preserve these animals, as a species, while we are still dealing with the issue of habitat loss. in india, there has been tremendous success in the preservation of wild asiatic lions, in their native environment. so much so that their population has outgrown their limited preserves and there are now other regions of the country with their own wild preserves, asking to have this overflow brought to them (that negotiation still on the table, last i read, as these other regions have not had such a great track record in the preservation of their own wild habitats and indigenous tiger populations).

in the mean time, we don\'t want to loose the species, while we slowly work out issues of poaching, environmental degradation, human settlement, agricultural expansion and habitat loss, to name a few. we may one day succeed in protecting and restoring these areas, but without additional measures for the tiger, they may not live to see that day. we need some kind of "noah\'s arc" in the mean time, and petting zoos like the one i went to are currently the closest thing i know of to achieving that.

Ryan Burgess
2 Months Ago

So This blog post is woefully inaccurate, the writer hasnt even been to Tiger Kingdom and originally mixed up the stories of Tiger Kigndom and Tiger Temple. Tiger Temple was a bad place that go closed down, Tiger Kingdom is a very good place for the tigers doing good work. Read our blog post on it from having actually volunteerd at Tiger Kingdom rather than reading this dribble.


Tiger Woods
3 Months Ago

I really enjoyed this wonderful place.interacting with the tigers as great. I dont buy into the lies this website spews. infact i liked to so much i made a one million dollar endowment to make sure this place operates for many many years

22 Jan 2017

Well done that man.

15 Feb 2017

hello tiger woods. i went to one of the tiger kingdoms in chaingmai two years ago (see my posting from a couple minutes ago). i think that some, but not all, of this article is inaccurate. i never saw tigers alone in individual cages, but i didn\'t have access to the entire facility, either.

what i\'d like to ask you is what happens to the older tigers, once the younger tigers eventually take their place? where do they go, once tiger cubs continue to be born and their population outgrows the facility\'s capacity?

15 Feb 2017

ok, i read the article and it answers the question of what happens to the older tigers. apparently, there is going to be a special park, just for the retirement age (age 2-3) tigers. but that opens up more questions: how will that new park sustain itself, if it doesn\'t offer younger tigers for paying tourists? what is the current condition of retired tigers at the current tiger kingdom parks? are they alone in cages or in the company of trainers and other tigers in open enclosures? what will happen when you start to mix the older populations from the three different tiger kingdoms into one park? are they territorial and hostile toward other tigers who they don\'t know, the way that house cats are? i also think that there should not be a facility for retired tigers that the general public can not visit. not that they should be interacting with these older tigers (due to changes in their hormones, as stated by the article), but because there is better oversight of these tigers conditions if the public is at least nearby. tiger kingdom might consider moving some of the younger ones too, in order to offer something to the public.

i\'m also surprised to hear that the tiger mothers in the breeding programs don\'t know how to take care of their babies, or have no interest in them. that may be from lack of exposure to their own mothers, but certainly not from lack of (human) affection. animals in zoos (the absolute worst environment for their emotional well being) are bread in zoos and often do raise their own babies. if the article is correct in saying that taking them from their mothers neither helps nor hinders their bonding with their human trainers, then there really should be no reason to do that, that i can think of.

5 Months Ago

Just spoke to someone who was just there. She claims the tigers are lethargic and probably drugged. She also heard that many of the Tiger Kingdoms have been closed down. Hope so. Terrible to do this to these majestic creatures!!!

13 Jan 2017

Just been there. When I was in Goa 20 years ago, i met two men on holiday. The younger one had gone on a "safari"one day, and proudly (and quietly) showed me a claw from a tiger he claimed to have shot on this safari. I was horrified. The animals we saw at tiger sanctuary were in very good health. Better than you see in some zoos. My opinion is that without captive programs, these magnificent animals will soon be extinct. These programs require funding, hence these places.

1 Years Ago

I\'ve been here before I learnt about animal cruelty and I found it terrifying. The last tiger we saw was provoked by one of the staff, waving something in its face, before it jumped up and roared.

Doris Oakes
2 Years Ago

Free those baby's

Simone Martine
2 Years Ago

Stupidity whit no limit :(

Barbro Rosenlew
2 Years Ago

Should be stopped!!!

Abby Gail
2 Years Ago

That is so very sad

Ta Da
2 Years Ago

People in trip advisor admit how obvious it is that tigers are sedated and drugged up to be calm and pose for pictures and yet give this business 5 stars because they had fun. Unbelievable ! Please go to trip advisor and write the real review that maybe will open eyes of future visitors.


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