Tiger Kingdom, Phuket
1st Visit: 12th Jan 2016
2nd Visit: 18th Mar 2017
3rd Visit: 27th April 2018
Tiger Kingdom in Phuket is the second Tiger Kingdom venue offering tiger interaction opportunities. Located in the heart of Phuket, this is first and foremost a business which is evident by the impressive entrance way, the array of computers lined up with options for guest to peruse and the very enthusiastic helpful staff who immediately latch onto you as soon as you arrive. The prices are high but no one around seems to care as they get their numbers and are processed like a factory line through the tiger photo ops.
First Visit: 12th January 2016
On this initial visit, a first to any Tiger Kingdom venue, our researcher chose to see the smaller cubs and the biggest tigers in an effort to get an idea of what went on. The smaller cubs were first, about 5 months old. All asleep as can be expected as it was 11pm. All handlers carried little sticks, which they used to tap and poke the tigers into the desired position regardless of the tigers wants and needs. The younger tigers in particular took exception to this, the larger ones seemed resigned. Our researcher then visited the larger tigers while getting used to the factory-esque system in place that simply shunted tourists through. Whilst out in this large area, it seemed that these tigers were not encouraged to move at all. Each had their allocated area in which to pose and that was it. It was a shame as the enclosure was fairly decent.
Each enclosure was at least 20x20 metres complete with pond, platform, trees and grass. Upon closer inspection however, the pond was filled with chlorine to keep it clean, the ground was actually laid with bricks through which the grass poked through and the trees and fences were all ringed with electric wires to stop any scratching. There was no enrichment items or toys of any sort both in the inside and outside areas. Strangely, whilst there were enough enclosures for all the tigers, they were being used in a one on, one off system.
The tigers not posing for tourists were locked in small 5x5m cages, four to a cage. Each at least contained a wooden platform and a large water bowl though all had concrete flooring. The cages lined both sides of the walkway so that all of them can be viewed though it does feel more factory-like this way.
Most of the tigers were disinterested in the large numbers of tourists streaming passed preferring to play among themselves or to sleep. A few did interact and some out in the enclosures were playing, especially when encouraged to do with toys by the staff.
Second Visit: 18th March 2017
The setup of enclosures and cages was exactly the same, however this time our researchers did not participate in any of the programmes but simply did the walk through option. There were a similar number of tigers though staff did report a tigress and just had three cubs that were just days old.
Cages and enclosures were clean and all held water with the exception of one cage. Tigers responded in varying ways to interaction ranging from disinterest through to curious and friendly. The large Amur male however, was very aggressive towards tourists that stopped to stare and constantly paced. Physically the tigers all appear to be in good health though there are a number with crossed eyes and one sub-adult that was suffering from cataracts in both eyes.
For the most part the staff interacted well with the tigers using the stick to position tigers only. However one staff member was witnessed repeatedly hitting a 3 month old cub across the face, though this does not appear to be the norm.
Third Visit: 27th April 2018
Once again, no change in the setup, enclosures or general welfare. There were notably less tigers on this last visit and this was reflected both in the observed count and that reported by staff.
Staff and tigers both interacted well with the exception of one staff member who grabbed a tiger cub by the tail, dragging it across about 5m of cage floor. Generally though tigers were disinterested or friendly with human interaction and the staff were caring in both interactions with the tigers and the guests.
Overall, this is definitely operating with a higher level of welfare than most facilities but it has such a business-like atmosphere that makes it feel that the welfare isn't done to help the tigers.
How Many Tigers?
Each area comprised of an outside area four cages leading into it
Each contained a pond for bathing
Grass and natural vegetation present though trees were wrapped in electric wiring and grass was protected by brick through which it grew
No enrichment items
Some platforms both inside and outside
Inside cages were concrete floored and barren apart from a wooden platform
Physical & Mental Health
Excessive numbers of tigers, some too many per enclosure/cage
Some clear health problems, probably from inbreeding - crossed eyes and blindness
Small cubs hit with sticks to behave
For the most part no stereotypy observed in those interacting with the public but pacing was observed in those not interacting with the public
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.