The tiger is my favorite animal and when I learned that petting tigers in Chiang Mai Thailand was a possibility I was so excited. As an animal lover, I was concerned about the horror stories I had heard. Tigers being kept in a drugged state so that they could be touched by hummans. That’s not ok with me. I set out to see if there were places that employeed humane practices with preservation as their mission. So I’ll explain the good and the bad so you will know why it matters.
The sad truth is that many tigers live their lives drugged and chained as huge lines of people wait in the sweltering heat for their turn to quickly have their picture taken while kneeling next to one of these drugged tigers. To believe that these magnificent creatures would spend their entire lives under these deplorable conditions was something I would not participate in.
Is there really anything good you might ask? I wondered too and was willing to forgo seeing my favorite animal up close if this was the only option. I began researching. My search lead me to Tiger Kingdom in Chaing Mai. The claim is that the tigers are never drugged with the goal of wildlife preservation.
Wildlife preservation is important to me. I believe that if people have the oppurtunity to see animals close up, their appreciation for their magnificence grows.
Preservation in Thailand is at a critical juncture. Experts bleieve that only about 120 tigers still live in the wild. It is inevitable that the path of tigers and humans will intersect. These tigers are killed, that’s understandable. As much as I love animals, I know that human life trumps that of animals. That said, the future outlook for the tigers is devastating. Specialists believe that it is only a matter of time before tigers will vanish from the wild entirely. Extinct in the wild.
Tiger Kingdom works to keep these populations alive and growing by breeding in captivity. The tigers at Tiger Kingdom who are born in captivity will never be able to live in the wild. That sounds bad, but having no tigers at all is actually worse.
The tigers at Tiger Kingdom are hand raised, fed a diet of milk and chicken making them far less aggressive. These tigers spend 2 years with tourists before they are moved to very large sanctuaries where they live out their lives.
Our experience was nothing short of incredible. There were no long lines. We had an appointment and were alone in the enclosure at that time. We spent about 15 mins with 2 groups. Small tigers and medium tigers. These tigers were not chained and they were not drugged, I can promise you that. They were able to move around as they pleased. Move around they did. These were kid tigers and they acted like it. They were extremely active, I was breathless.
At one point the juvenille tiger we were petting saw a small child run by the enclosure on the other side of the fence. He couldn’t contain himself, jumping off the table and running to the fence to take a look. This tiger was gently guided back with a slender bamboo reed, never used to hit or gouge, but to guide.
They had toys, a nice pool, plenty of shade and the freedom to do as they pleased. If they wanted to nap, they did and we pet them there. If they wanted to get in the water and they were wet, we pet them wet. The tigers are rotated with much time spent in large enclosures away from people.
It is normal for a tiger to sleep most of the day, being active in the cooler parts of the day. It’s the same at Tiger Kingdom, it doesn’t mean they are drugged. In the morning and in the evening they are quite active. Wrestling with each other, playing with their keepers and wading in the water mostly happen before and after hours. As the heat of the day increases they will mostly sleep. If you do decide to visit Tiger Kingdom and wish to see them more active, plan to go first thing in the morning.
Visiting Tiger Kingdom is fairly expensive, but it is a once in a life time oppurtunity. The funds go towards preserving these beautiful animals. We can not afford to let them go. I would not recommend Tiger Kingdom if I did not feel that this facility was humane and had the best interests of their tigers at heart. Go, learn, enjoy and share in their preservation.
This is an excellent video. It is identical to the experience we had. Incredible experience.