Once again, another tourist has been mauled by a tiger in Thailand. The latest one was at a tiger park in Phuket, and the man was a 49 year old Australian named Paul Goudie. When asked why he thought the animal attacked him, Paul replied that he had been riding an elephant earlier in the day, and his best guess is that the tiger smelled the elephant on him.
Double wammy. Not only does the guy like to waltz into cages containing a wild animal, but he also likes to sit on them in his spare time as well.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Some poor tourist gets attacked by a tiger and I have no sympathy?
That’s right. I have zilch, zero, nada. Because I’m sick of it. I’m sick of tourists choosing to believe that their holiday pictures and Facebook updates are more important than the lives of these animals.
Thailand has long been known for its animal attractions, and many tourists pre-book their elephant rides and visits to tiger parks before they even arrive. However instead of simply booking these trips because they sound like “fun”, I wholeheartedly believe that we have a responsibility to do our research and make sure that animals are not being exploited for a few dollars.
I believe that burying our heads in the sand, and insisting on cuddling tigers at the expense of their wellbeing is wilful ignorance. And anytime I see a Facebook friend with a new profile picture of them lounging beside a tiger I cringe. And then I reevaluate whether I want to see them on my newsfeed. Yup it makes me that angry.
Anyone who’s met me knows I’m passionate about animal rights. I was a vegetarian for five years and still don’t touch red meat. I’m that sucker that cries at WWF and PETA ads, and “when I grow up” I want to have tons of land and a bunch of animals, including horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and maybe a sheep or two.
So yeah, it pisses me off when I see tourists spending money on attractions that harm animals. I’ve written before about why I will never ride an elephant, and as far as places like Tiger Kingdom go, I can categorically say that you will never catch me inside one of them either. Don’t get me wrong-I would love to hold a baby tiger (I’m that girl who squeals whenever there’s a puppy within petting distance) But I also like to consider the consequences of my actions while traveling.
One of the biggest arguments for tiger temples are the fact that tigers are on their way to extinction, and without human intervention our children may not be seeing any tigers at all. Some species are already extinct, and it’s estimated that there are now approximately only 3200 tigers left in the world. The biggest threats are loss of habitat and poaching, since many tiger parts are used in traditional medicine, especially in countries like China.
We should be disgusted at ourselves, disgusted at the human race, that one of the main arguments for these “sanctuaries” is that wild tigers will probably be extinct in 10 years and “hey, it’s better to have caged tigers than no tigers at all right?”
That cute little baby tiger you’re holding? Guess what? It doesn’t want to be held by you. It wants its mother, but it was taken away from her at only 2 weeks old.
Because babies are the real money makers, these temples breed and breed and breed, and while they should have many older tigers, they’re nowhere to be found. Many people speculate that the temples are dealing in illegal tiger trading, since Thailand is surrounded by countries that believe tiger parts have medicinal qualities.
These wild animals, who have bodies designed for copious amounts of exercise, are kept in cages for around 20 hours a day. It’s unfathomable to me that anyone can think that this is ok. It’s no secret that these tigers are usually kept sedated, and tiger temples have even been known to remove their teeth and claws, and cut the tendons in their wrists to protect tourists.
Many tourists like to believe that the entrance fees they’re paying are going towards tiger conservation. But the reality is that the animals aren’t even being fed red meat-something that is crucial for them to remain healthy, and instead are being given chicken-despite the fact that they’re raking in money from tourists every day.
While I by no means think that tourists mauled by tigers deserve it, it’s hard to have sympathy when I firmly believe that going to these temples is irresponsible and dangerous. Would you let your kid sit by a tiger in a zoo? No? Then why is it ok to have them lying on these tigers like they’re the family dog?
In the age of Google we should all know better. It’s easy to research the situation at these types of places, and answers are only a click away. If you still choose to go, that’s your choice. But at least make an informed decision.
At the end of the day, we all make choices while we travel. But to quote Anna Lappe:
Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.
Have you been to any of the tiger temples? What was your experience like?