In November, For Tigers was invited to participate in the brand new Tiger Kingdom programme, Tiger Keeper for a day. The programme is based at the Tiger Kingdom Learning Centre out in Mae Taeng, which is not open to the general public unless participating in this programme.
Built along the same lines as the other Tiger Kingdom facilities, the difference here is the quiet. Set in an idyllic country area, the tigers are left in peace save for a handful of staff that takes care of the tigers’ day-to-day needs. It’s a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the Tiger Kingdom’s facilities in Chiang Mai and Phuket. Better yet, it’s an end point for the tigers most of which have endured the tiger selfie industry at one or other of these facilities, brought to Mae Taeng to retire in peace; it’s a lovely concept.
The programme itself is completely hands free and simply demonstrates the way the tiger keepers work everyday. Tigers are checked, cages cleaned, food prepared, toys made and enrichment implemented. Of course visitors are still in close proximity to the tigers, able to observe their behaviour, movements and their size, but all without really disturbing the tiger or having them manhandled into doing something they don’t wish to do – if the tiger doesn’t want to investigate the toy, it won’t. Regardless of whether the tigers interact with the enrichment or not, this programme provides an exhilarating experience, providing much needed insight into the workings of a facility such as this and demonstrating exactly why tourists shouldn’t be allowed hands on with tigers.
There are some welfare improvements that need to be made particularly when it comes to in-cage enrichment (more details can be found on our review), but this programme is already a huge step in the right direction. Staff members, both Thai and foreign, are all working towards a single goal – removing hands on tiger interactions from Tiger Kingdom’s facilities. Needless to say, this is in line with For Tigers' mission.
It is just the beginning, but this change in direction from Tiger Kingdom is an exciting one. We, and they, hope that this change can be implemented across all their facilities, potentially paving the way for other facilities to follow suit. With this in mind, For Tigers is ready to provide any aid and promotion for this new direction.