Tiger and other wildlife selfies are an on-going issue in tourist venues around the world. With facilities’ a commercial goals often at the forefront of most of these interactions, these selfies can be detrimental to the well-being of the animal. For instance, tigers are often forced into unnatural or stressful situations so that a visitor can take a photo.
Recent media reports show that there are additional issues at hand. A tourist at a tiger venue in Thailand, posted a photo of themselves, not only posing with and touching a tiger, but also grabbing the tiger’s testicles. This perceived disrespect to the tiger has caused further furore over what is already becoming a polarising interaction.
Unfortunately, much of what is actually wrong with this picture is sidelined as a result of media outlets focusing on the apparent drugging or sedation of the tiger. Through our research in Thailand, there has been no evidence of drugging or sedation of tigers in any tourist venues we have visited. This focus on sedation in many of the subsequent articles regarding this latest incident, draws attention away from the actual welfare issues at hand such as poor husbandry, lack of adequate nutrition, incorrect handling and improper breeding practices, all of which can contribute to a more relaxed-looking tiger.
These are the factors that need to be focused on as these are the real issues behind tiger tourism venues. Incorrectly attributing sluggish behaviour to drugging does not address the genuine and worrying problems behind such human-tiger interactions, many of which can be rectified if the right information is disseminated to the public.
While the tourist’s behaviour in this instance is most definitely inappropriate, it’s really some of the bigger issues, such as early removal of cubs from their mother, poor husbandry, incorrect handling and so on, that we should be outraged about. This incident highlights additional issues with regard to the public’s response to these types of interactions as it takes an inappropriate touch to get the world upset, when the living conditions of these tigers alone should be enough.
We need to push for better welfare practices and laws that prohibit such interactions at all, and on a global scale.