Thailand’s tiger park, Tiger Kingdom, will reopen its doors to tourists for a hands-on experience despite the recent mauling of an Australian tourist. The park allows visitors to enter the cages of the wild animals for photo opportunities. This is not just with the cubs but with the full-grown adult tigers as well, where the brave will enter cages with a trainer, for a price, to snap once in a lifetime photos.
The park maintains that the incident with Australian Paul Gordie was due to the fact that the tiger was protecting its trainer when it saw Gordie reach out to him during his in-cage visit. The victim will survive but will have numerous scars on his abdomen and legs, and he is also speaking out about the incident. Gordie states that it is not the fault of the tiger and he hopes that the tiger will be spared and not put down due to the incident. The park ensured that the tiger would not be put down, but would be retired and no longer available for tourists to take pictures with. He spoke with reporters from his hospital bed, stating that the park employees were wonderful, and that he does not blame anyone for the attack. He spoke of the rules and regulations, and how his group posed with another tiger prior to this incident, and everything went fine. He is well aware of the fact that he entered the cage of an unpredictable wild animal, and that it was his prerogative to do so. Gordie also states that he would like to go back, but would stay on the outside of the cages next time.
The Thailand tiger park shut down for merely two days after the incident, and there is no sign that any changes or new procedures were put in place to protect visitors from this happening in the future. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has long set their sights on Thailand for multiple reasons. One being the tiger park where they are fighting for larger enclosures, and warning that the mauling incident is a result of the conditions at the park, as the tigers there get only basic needs, and are deprived of those things that come instinctively to wild animals. Attacks are more frequent than one would know, and it speaks to the stress of the animals living conditions according to PETA.
Another issue with captive animals in Thailand has to do with elephants, where it is believed that over 4,000 of these giant mammals are held captive. Their plight is a double-edged sword as the majority are used within the tourism industry, and there is nowhere to release them into the wild, so forcing a shut down of elephants used as business tools would result in thousands left un-cared for. If the plight of these two species is not enough there is talk of opening a dolphin attraction in Chalong, Phuket Thailand. It is not legal to capture these sea creatures but there is no restriction on importing them, and plans seem to be progressing even though over 15,000 people signed a petition on change.org.
by Kristi Cereska