Phuket Zoo is located in the centre of the island, not far from the main city. Its setup is that of an older style zoo using concrete floored pits and enclosures to display the animals. There was a wide range of animals including tigers, elephants, monkeys, orangutans, otters, crocodiles and an aquarium. This last is actually the best section of the zoo. There are a number of shows including an elephants show and monkey show, both of which force the animals to perform unnatural behaviours. Tigers are out for photographs and appear to be chained in place from opening until closing.
1st Visit: 11th Jan 2016
2nd Visit: 18th Mar 2017
3rd Visit: 27th April 2018
First Visit: 11th January 2016
Upon arrival, despite having a map, our researchers found it a challenge to find the tigers. However, two of them were found hidden in small concrete enclosures at the very back of the zoo. One male and one female. Each area was about 8x4 metres, and although it was outside there was nothing for the tigers to do though they both had a cave doubling as platform. The night/lock down rooms could be seen too, at about 2x3 metres in size. No enrichment, no natural environment, nothing to even see for these two tigers. The male was completely unresponsive, pacing constantly. However the female was much more interested and after a few chuffs did actually come over to say hello.
When heading out to exit the zoo, it discovered that there were in fact two other tigers. These two were in different areas of the park and on display for the photo opportunities with tourists. Both on incredibly short chains, so short it was an effort for them to even stand up and move. One of them also had a hunchback and bow legs which could be a result of inbreeding.
It is unclear where these two tigers reside at night as there were no obvious empty enclosures or cages.
Second Visit: 18th March 2017
There was no notable changes in the enclosures and cages of the tigers. The same two tigers were chained up for photos and appear to do so for the entire day.
The only addition was to find a number of other tigers in small cages in the very back of the zoo. This area was blocked off by a tarpaulin to prevent the public from entering but the tigers could be seen behind this. These cages also had no enrichment and no places for the tigers to hide.
Third Visit: 27th April 2018
A third visit revealed more tigers living in the originally reported cement-floored enclosures - possible five. The area that contained hidden tigers on the second visit were now open. Previously the tigers had each been confined to small cages in this area, now each one had access to a 5x10m area that contained a dirt floor and plenty of natural vegetation. They were also able to take themselves off into their night rooms if they so desired, removing themselves from the presence of the public. These tigers seemed much more relaxed and curious with a number of them coming over to our researchers chuffing to say hello.
Whilst this was an improvement in living conditions, albeit for just three tigers, the same two tigers were out on the platforms for photos. More concerningly, for the first time in years, there were also cubs. These looked to be between 4 to 6 months old and were being held in a brand new area complete with chain up spots, platforms and places for tourists to sit. The entire area was concreted and contained only potted plants to give a semblance of a natural area. This enclosure was also situated right next to the main road where buses and other large vehicles rumbled passed regularly. One cub was chained to a bench with the other cubs being kept in three 1x2 metre cages (each with a wooden platform). The cubs were lethargic and unresponsive and one cub looked to have a similar short back and hunched spine as one of the the adult tigers on the platform.
Whilst some enclosures had improved, this was a definite step backward. In addition the admission price had tripled to include tiger photos leading our researchers to believe that Phuket Zoo maybe intending to start their own tiger photo programme to rival those already found on Phuket.
How Many Tigers?
The living quarters comprised of two enclosures at an average of 8x10m and a night room/lock down of 2x3m
No pond visible
No water was visible in any of the enclosures
No grass or natural vegetation
No enrichment observed
Caves and some platformed areas to climb
Concrete flooring both in and outdoors
Three newer enclosures to 2018 have vegetation, grass and natural areas
Cub area - new to 2018 has three small 1x2 metre holding cages, large area complete with chain up spots, platforms and places for tourists to sit
Physical & Mental Health
The tigers in enclosures seemed in good physical health
One of the two tigers on display appeared fine physically, the other had signs of deformity - hunchback and bowlegs
Water was provided to these two
Tigers in enclosures have various levels of interactivity with some pacing in an unbreakable pattern with others interactive, chuffing and friendly
Photo prop tigers were both unresponsive, restless and one was slightly aggressive towards the handler
Cubs appeared lethargic and also unresponsive
What we are doing to help
At this time we are raising awareness for the situation of the captive tigers in Thailand through education of the public and through a number of different petitions.
Head to our Petition zone to see how you can help.