Many people have strong reservations visiting a place like Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai. The main reason being the history of drugging tigers in such places. While this is sadly true in other areas, our local guide assured us that none of the tigers at Tiger Kingdom are drugged. From what I witnessed while I was there, I’d say he was right.
But there is so much more to be addressed.
One of the reasons the tigers might seem drugged is due to the fact that tigers are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night and sleep throughout the day. The cages were well-kept, and the handlers were friendly, seeming to genuinely care for the animals. The tigers were not chained like they are at Tiger Temple, and they had areas to swim and play.
There is the “Life of Pi” debate: are animals able to deeply connect with humans and display affection, emotion, or friendship? Or are they merely an animal, just with the sole instinct to survive? I like to believe that they are able to form trusting relationships with humans, especially if raised by humans.
But is being swarmed by hundreds of humans a day the ideal life for a tiger? No . . . of course it isn’t.
Tigers could still live in captivity for protection without being a tourist attraction. Although without the tourists there would be nothing funding the food, shelter, medications, and vigorous upkeep for these animals. The same goes for Thailand in general. So much of the country is funded by tourism and it is heavily relied upon.
While I did have a good day at the Kingdom and was pleased to find the animals treated well, the whole ride back to my hotel I contemplated my true opinion of the place. It seems to boil down to letting animals go extinct or keeping them alive and funded as a human attraction. If they are genuinely breeding and protecting these magnificent creatures, then I am okay with supporting that.
But here’s the thing I can’t ignore:
Tiger Kingdom is said to be a sanctuary, but there is never any mention that the tigers will be released back into the wild. These animals are being bred and handled in a way from birth that would never allow them to be released into the wild. So, if none of these tigers are ever released into the wild, then how is it preserving the species?
What do you think? Do you have information on Tiger Kingdom? Please comment with your thoughts!