Khao Kheow Zoo is one of eight zoos run by the Zoological Parks Organisation of Thailand (ZPO). As with the other zoos, it was founded and created to provide a recreational, educational and conservation-oriented venue aimed at Thai people. In keeping the rest of the zoos run by the ZPO, Khao Kheow offers high standards of animal welfare with enclosures and living conditions being some of the best in the country. The zoo is huge and requires driving in order to get around. This also enables the enclosures to be very large for the species residing there.
1st Visit: 19th Feb 2017
2nd Visit: 9th April 2018
First Visit: 19th February 2017
The enclosures of the tigers were larger than most seen around Thailand, averaging about 200sqm, though some were larger. Most of them had a glass front and were fully enclosed (open roof), thus preventing the tigers from really seeing or hearing the visitors. This could be argued both ways in terms of welfare:
- For: The tigers would be unable to see or hear the visitors and therefore less stressed.
- Against: The tigers are removed from the outside world and sounds, smells, experiences that can be a form of enrichment.
Each of the enclosures contained a large pond and natural features, such as vegetation and rock formations as well as a variety of enrichment items. These included hanging toys, balls, logs, tyres and food items. There were places for the tigers to hide, however, they were never completely out of sight from the public. All enclosures were covered with either a sand/dirt substrate or grass.
There appeared to be various night or lock down rooms at the back of each enclosure, though these were not viewed by the researchers.
There was minimal interaction with tourists with the exception of a tiger feeding interaction, where tourists could give pieces of raw meat to one of the tigers using tongs. This appeared to be very entertaining for the tigers involved and there was no direct contact between visitors and the tiger.
The last addition here was the tiger show. This show was based more on enrichment concepts and demonstrating the natural abilities of various animals. Other animals in the show included otters, pelicans, a lion, hyena and various small hunting cats. No keepers were in direct contact with the animals, but clickers could be heard off to the sides.
The tigers swam or climbed up feeding poles, both activities being good physical enrichment as well as informative to the public.
Generally, the tigers appeared alert, playful and relaxed with lots of natural behaviours observed including the Flehmen Response, scent marking and perimeter patrolling.
Second Visit: 9th April 2018
A year later, our researchers did not notice much difference in the welfare of the tigers. Some of the tigers were in different enclosures, indicating that a rotation was in progress and adding to possible enrichment. In-cage enrichment was also changed, demonstrating an ongoing process. Some of the tigers used within the tiger show were also different, suggesting they were not placed in the show for lengthy periods of time.
General disposition of the tigers remained the same, though some tigers were observed pacing. Overall welfare is better than most facilities in Thailand.
How Many Tigers?
Each area comprised of an outside area and also a hidden den or night room
Each contained a pond for bathing
Grass and natural vegetation
Contained enrichment items such as tyres/logs, meat enrichment and hanging toys
Caves and some platformed areas to climb were available
Most were glass-fronted exhibits though glass seemed to be soundproof giving some privacy to the tigers
Physical & Mental Health
White tigers bred
Lameness was observed
Body condition adequate
Some had missing tails
A few tigers seen pacing
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.