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A selfie with a tiger is cruel, so don’t do it

An investigation by international animal welfare charity World Animal Protection has exposed that Thailand’s controversial Tiger Temple Co. Ltd.

An investigation by international animal welfare charity World Animal Protection has exposed that Thailand’s controversial Tiger Temple Co. Ltd. is planning to re-open under the new name Golden Tiger (Thailand) Co. Ltd.

The charity is extremely concerned about these developments, given the appalling circumstances and conditions that led to the closure of Tiger Temple, and is calling for the Thai government to not issue a zoo license to Golden Tiger (Thailand) Co. Ltd. to open another venue.

Tiger Temple Co. Ltd, once a well-known tourist attraction because of its large collection of tigers, was recorded to have at least 147 tigers in 2016. After years of allegations of illegal breeding and trafficking of the tigers and their parts, in May of last year more than 500 officers from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) raided the venue uncovering dead cubs in freezers alongside tiger skins, amulets and tiger teeth trinkets.

The Golden Tiger (Thailand) Co. Ltd. is currently constructing a new venue in Kanchanaburi (in the West of Thailand) and have already been issued a provisional license by the DNP for this new business venture. However, a full zoo licence will not be issued unless they meet 11 specified conditions within six months. These include enclosures deemed large enough for the tigers and vet care, but worryingly it fails to ban breeding or tourist interactions with tigers at the proposed new venue.

Also, legal cases and police investigations into the illegal wildlife trade allegations against Tiger Temple Co. Ltd. are still ongoing, and granting a zoo license would allow them to continue running a tiger business that potentially harbours cruelty.

In 2016, World Animal Protection handed over a petition to the DNP calling for a thorough investigation into all captive tiger facilities in Thailand, and to ban the breeding of tigers at commercial venues which serve no conservation benefit for tigers in the wild.

Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, senior wildlife advisor at World Animal Protection says:

“Tiger farms have nothing to do with conservation – they just bring extreme suffering to these wild animals whilst living in appalling conditions.

“These venues need to be stopped in their tracks because they clearly have links to the dark side of wildlife trafficking rings.”

Last year World Animal Protection released a study on tigers used for entertainment in Thailand which documented a 33% increase in the number of tigers at tourism facilities over a five-year period.
The main welfare concerns witnessed by the investigators at these tourist venues include:

• Tiger cubs cruelly separated from their mothers, two to three weeks after they are born

• Young cubs used as photo props with tourists, constantly viewed and mishandled hundreds of times a day, which can lead to stress and injury

• Tigers being punished to stop aggressive unwanted behavior. One staff member told our researchers that starvation is used to punish the tigers when they make a ‘mistake’

• Most tigers were housed in small concrete cages or barren enclosures with limited access to fresh water. 50% of the tigers we observed were in cages with less that 20sqm per animal, a far cry from the 16-32km they would roam in a single night in the wild

• One in ten (12%) of the tigers we observed showed behavioral problems, such as repetitive pacing and biting their tails. These behaviors most commonly occur when animals feel they cannot cope with stressful environments or situations.

Dr. Schmidt-Burbach adds: “Tourists need to be aware that their once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close to a tiger causes a lifetime of suffering. A selfie with a tiger is cruel, so don’t do it.”