Behind a screen, a line of people stand—waiting to take a photo with one of the most feared and respected predators in the world; a tiger. The gentle beast appears docile and well looked after. What could possibly be wrong with taking a picture beside him?
“Tiger selfies” have become a popular practice of tourists to South East Asia, particularly in Thailand where there are many tiger entertainment venues, some masking as conservation centres. Earlier this year, we exposed the reasons why we don’t ride elephants, and today being International Tiger Day, we want to address the recent report by World Animal Protection, which exposes the real cost of taking a tiger selfie.
Many people are unaware of the suffering behind tiger selfies, and what they represent. Unfortunately, the appeal of having a close encounter with a tiger is amplified by these selfies, especially since they are being shared on social media. The issue of tiger selfies is part of a wider problem around the appalling treatment of tigers in countries like Thailand.
So what’s going on?
Wildlife tourism is big business, worth up to $250 billion (USD) annually. Around 550,000 wild animals are victims of irresponsible tourism. Captive tigers are especially sought after, with the increased demand for selfies and close encounters with tiger cubs. Tigers at these entertainment venues must endure:
A lifetime of suffering – cubs are taken from their mothers within two weeks of birth. There is no benefit for cubs to be taken so early. The research conducted by WAP confirms that the conditions of Thailand’s entertainment venues are severely inadequate; they did not even meet the tiger’s most basic needs. They’re also kept chained for great lengths of time and kept in unnatural environments.
Forced entertainment – Tigers are made to perform unnatural tasks; jumping through burning hoops, balancing on ropes and walking across raised steel platforms. The training involves inflicting pain and suffering upon the animals.
Unnecessary punishment – It goes without saying that the conditions faced by tigers are punishment enough, however it doesn’t quite end there. It’s not uncommon for staff at Sriracha Tiger Zoo to limit food as a form of punishment.
What we don’t know
According to the report, visitors to these venues are unaware that they are funding cruelty and ignorance. TripAdvisor reviews for Sriracha Tiger Zoo (a facility with a great many tigers in captivity) show that over 80% of visitors rated the attraction as “excellent”, while only 18% gave a negative review on concerns of animal welfare.
The purpose of the report and campaign against tiger selfies is to educate tourists and visitors about what they are really supporting if they choose to pay the entry fee.
What can you do?
At Inspired, we are committed to putting an end to the suffering of animals. We all have a role to play in protecting tigers from the cruelty that comes with being a source of entertainment for tourists. In order to phase out this industry, WAP calls for government intervention on tiger entertainment venues, support from travel companies to end the promotion of these venues and for travellers to avoid them altogether.
By choosing not to visit, or take part in human-animal interactions you will play a crucial part in closing down these entertainment venues for good. Understand that if you interact with a wild animal in venues like this, you are supporting a cruel and inhumane industry.
Today is International Tiger Day and World Animal Protection are asking you to pledge to avoid cruel animal venues on social media. Simply upload a photo of yourself with a sign #betterselfie and show your support to protect animals in the wild. Visit their community page for more information, and to upload your photo!
Together, we can move towards a better world, where wild animals are protected from the cruel practices of the tourism industry.
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Photo credits: World Animal Protection