A tiger is not the animal at the top of my list when it comes to answering the question, “What animal would you like to interact with?” While traveling in Thailand with a friend, the opportunity to do just that, interact with a tiger, came up. I may not have done a lot of research about it but lucky for me I was with the queen of research and Q&A, my bestie Alana!
A lot of people believe these tigers are just there as a tourist attraction and are drugged 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I can assure you these tigers are NOT drugged. These animals would not have interacted with each other the way they did or have as much energy as they did if they were drugged. These tigers were very reminiscent of domesticated house cats that were playing with each other, except they weren’t small house cats. Both Alana and I were very adamant about going to a location that did not drug their tigers even if that meant only observing them and not being given the opportunity to physically interact with them.
Tiger Kingdom is a facility that is regulated by the government. Should a tiger be born, it must be reported. If a tiger dies, it must be reported. The government also conducts check ups at least every three months to ensure every tiger is accounted for and in good health. We were even able to witness the facility’s care first hand while we were there. Towards the back in one of the enclosures they was a tiger being observed by employees and seemed to be isolated from others. Upon talking to the employees, the people interacting and observing the tiger were veterinarians and handlers. This tiger was constipated and they were making sure nothing was wrong. Instead of using sedation or anything that could be harmful they used ethical techniques and the trained veterinarians administered the medicine in the cat’s rectum. While we were there they were playing the waiting game to see when the constipation would pass. Had this place been just another tourist trap, they would have just sedated the tiger and done what they needed to to get this tiger back in front of the cameras.
These large jungle cats also do not appear to be abused as some people claim. They are trained with vocal queues to keep those visitors sharing their environment safe. The trainers also have bamboo sticks that they use as a distraction.
The reason why these facilities are open and are important for these tigers are because tigers don’t roam around freely in Thailand. They are hunted by poachers and with Thailand’s urban population expanding at a rapid rate and there is not enough free untouched wild environment left for tigers to live freely. If these tigers were roaming free and found itself in a civilian environment it would most likely be killed to protect us humans.
This was definitely an experience I will always remember!