This might not be the actual truth, but it is my view on this ongoing debate. Phuket (Thailand) was my home for about 5 weeks. In my first week I learned that Phuket has one of Thailand’s infamous “tiger farms”, me being me, I had to see for myself if all the rumors were true.
Places like Tiger Kingdom are known because people all around the world claim that the tigers are drugged and mistreated all so that tourists can touch them and take photos with them. Which sounds pretty logical right, how else would you be able to sit or lie next to a tiger, a wild animal that could literally rip you to pieces.
NOT EVERYTHING YOU READ ON THE INTERNET IS TRUE
I’m not accusing anyone here of lying, I totally believe that you once visited a tiger sanctuary that treated their animals badly and maybe they even drugged them just to make money. I however also know that a lot of “facts” can be found on the internet and are not true. They are often hear says, written by people that become activists only when behind a keyboard or told by people who are literally sheep – they say a certain thing because the whole herd is saying this, so whatever is being said by the group must be true, right? Don’t start hating on me now because you are by any chance an actual expert when it comes to animal rights, I totally respect your opinion and would love to hear from you.
I can only tell you what I experienced and what I found out doing research- I’M STILL NOT SURE IF I BELIEVE IT ALL, and I would rather see these gorgeous animals in the wild, not in a cage!!
When you enter Tiger Kingdom you get to choose which tigers you would like to see up close, there is quite a fee attached to your visit in the cage. This is where it starts, I’ve heard so many people complain about it, but you should realise that medication and food costs a lot, there are also loads of people working there that need to be paid and proper medical attention when an animal is seriously ill. I also know that there is talk about a new park, dedicated to the older tigers. This seems to be a scam though, and I would not recommend spending any money on this. But to be entirely honest, YOU ARE IN THAILAND, everything and anything costs money here!
We choose to visit the smallest tigers (these are usually between 2 to 4 months old) during the time we were there they had no tigers in that age range (we still had to pay the specific fee for that age range and only found out after paying that there were no cubbies). But to be honest, I couldn’t really be bothered, I was there to experience a “tiger farm” and them telling me that there are no cubs or pregnant tigers means that this place is not that much of a breeding place as I thought it was.
The little ones were at the time of our visit around 5-10 months, and not by any means little, these incredible animals slept through our whole visit! Don’t go all “I told you they are drugged” on me right away. Tigers CAN sleep up to 20 hours a day, this leaves only a few hours of eating, wandering about and playing. These hours are NOT done during the heat of the day, usually they are only up after the sun sets. At Tiger Kingdom it is a tad bit different due to the feeding schedule, they get fed just before opening and after closing of the park. Their internal clock will wake them up for meal times, so if you do want to visit them while they are not napping, make sure to go around 5 PM (the park closes at 6 PM).
It is also almost impossible to drug these amazing animals due to the constant flow of tourists. Someone would definitely notice it if they were given a shot or food during the day. This still leaves the option that they are drugged during their meal in the morning, but due to a fast metabolism, this wouldn’t last all day.
Because we only bought our way into the smallest tiger enclosure we didn’t have an amazing view of the others. The teenagers however could be seen through a fence and I tried to make some photos. These adorable and restless youngsters were playing around the pool, chasing each other and the stick with a rambling playball the keeper was jotting around.
The adults up to 2 years of age are kept in their own pretty small enclosures and the animals that are above the age of 3 seem nonexistent. When a tiger becomes an adult they tend to start fighting with others, they are not particularly social, you could see them as the grumpy elders in carehouses. You don’t want to put all of them in one room, they’ll definitely start some kind of argument and end up hating each other and life a little more every day. So for their own happiness the tigers are moved to their own little enclosure or cage (they do get to run around to stretch their legs every now and then). What I would like to see here is a lot more room in their own enclosure for them to walk around, and not just a few minutes every now and then.. Some of the tigers are also moved to the other Tiger Kingdoms (there are 2 others) due to the small amount of space there is at Phuket. It is illegal in Thailand to sell wildlife, this is why their tigers won’t be sold to zoos or other facilities. This is however where I have my doubts. Tiger Kingdom Phuket is small, really small and there are no adult tigers to be found. I am not sure but believe that there is no other option than for them to have sold these gorgeous animals.
What to think about it all?
I stand by my belief that in the end it is better for wildlife to survive in captivity opposed to dying in the wild. Don’t tell me this doesn’t happen, because it does. In 2014 there were at least 3400 tigers in the wild, by now, 2 years later this number is far under 3000. These animals aren’t safe from poachers, and there are by far not enough resources to protect them.
There are few that say they only go to see enclosed wildlife facilities if they are part of a rehabilitation project. After writing essay after essay about the subject and questioning Tiger Kingdom I now know that introducing tamed animals into the wild costs a lot of money and time, and even if they succeed, survival is not guaranteed. Where would they go? Is there any place in the world still safe? And then you find a place, but there are other tigers living there. Who says they will get along, who will protect them from each other?
I’m not saying that tiger kingdom is by any means a rehabilitation project, and if it ever would want to be one, it needs major improvements.
In the end this is just the horrible reality we all created. I don’t like seeing these animals in cages, I would love to see them run free, but we have to face the facts here. There is no other alternative except extinction. The world will not change overnight, poachers won’t wake up one morning and decide it’s time to stop their trade, their way of making a living, or even their “hobby”. And no matter how bad we try to inform tourists, they re still going to want their selfie.
I just can’t be bothered about the fact that Tiger Kingdom makes some profit of us tourists to having a positive experience. I’m not going to say that this is a place where animals are misused and mistreated, because this is by far the lesser of two evils. I’m not saying that all places are like this, there are horrible “sanctuaries” where animals do get drugged, all I’m saying is that don’t be to fast with your judgement.
If you would like to read a story about someone who actually lived and worked with Tiger Kingdom during her time at the branch in Chang Mai, find her story HERE. She will answer almost all the questions you could have about this place in her post.
I won’t tolerate any rude or nasty comments. I know a lot of people seem to become animal rights activists when they get behind their computer. Being mean is not going to contribute anything to this whole discussion. I do however, would love to hear about any GOOD or BAD experiences you’ve had at similar places, please state the reason etc etc. So that others might learn from your mistakes.