What a strange year it has been! 2020 has been remarkably hard all round and while people have suffered, animals have too.
With countries closed off and the world in lockdown, many tourist attractions struggled to make ends meet. The lack of tourists meant there was no money coming in to feed the tigers or to pay staff members. Though this could have been the start of a welcome reprieve for Thailand’s captive tigers, this might not have been true. You can read our thoughts on how covid-19 impacted tiger welfare here .
While we always strive to provide for the relocated Tiger Temple tigers, this year proved to be somewhat of a challenge. We left 2019 on a high with 20 new enclosures built across the two facilities, new trees planted and even some cage upgrades underway. However, Covid-19 put an instant halt to any additional plans we had as an organisation. The government facilities effectively began working with skeleton crews which meant the tigers were not allowed out into the new enclosures. It also meant that no one could come in, meaning no construction teams from outside the facility and by default, no more upgrades for the time being.
This was somewhat of a blow, but we have maintained a positive relationship with the directors of these facilities. Throughout the year we have remained in contact offering our help when needed. We will be continuing our work into the next year, hopefully providing further upgrades once the necessary construction work can resume.
Following the welfare situations
For the past three years we have visited all of the public facilities that hold tigers in Thailand, performing a basic welfare assessment. Usually this takes place in April, but with Covid-19 restrictions in place, borders and facilities were all closed. However, as the pandemic began receding, facilities started to reopen in Thailand. From September through to December our Thailand-based trustee was able to visit the majority of these facilities, recording the welfare of the tigers situated there. This year’s annual welfare assessment does remain incomplete however, as a number of the facilities were still temporarily closed. At least two of these facilities have now closed for good, but it is unclear where the tigers have been moved too.
Tiger Day – Fundraising and Partnerships
For two years we have run our Walk for Tigers event to raise funds for the Tiger Temple tigers. This year the situation was a little different. Instead of joining together for a walk to Shepreth Wildlife Park as has been our practice in previous years, we organised a virtual event instead. This time, walkers from around the world could all participate, with walkers attempting to collectively reach a distance of 1000km. The event was a huge success raising £1209 with participants from ten different countries. In addition to that, we held a Zoom Comedy event which was also a success.
We also partnered up with Roxi the Rescue Dog to provide educational material to children. The children’s book, “Roxi Saves the Tigers” details the welfare issues surrounding captive tigers in the tourism industry in a way that will appeal to a younger audience.
Education and resources
This year, our main educational report was in the form of a myth busters report “Scratch That!” which took a look at common myths and beliefs regarding captive tiger tourism. The report addresses some of the main misconceptions surrounding tiger tourism highlighting the welfare issues that these beliefs can actually hide.
Throughout the year we also attended various virtual conferences including the International Society for Anthrozoology Annual Conference, European Association of Zoos and Aquarium (EAZA), Global Online Animal Training Summit and South East Asia Zoo Association (SEAZA). Our director also gave a short presentation on the use of Qualitative Behaviour Assessments (SEAZA, 17th Nov) to help keepers understand their tigers and subsequently their welfare. Though in virtual form, all provided us with opportunities to network, start new collaborations and of course, further our knowledge.
On to 2021…
While we weren’t able to carry out all of our planned projects this year, we have still accomplished a number of smaller projects. Being able to assess the tiger facilities after the first wave of the pandemic had passed was invaluable research as many other organisations were, and still are, unable to enter the country. These assessments are vital to the improvement of tiger welfare in Thailand and this year they highlighted some of the areas that are severely lacking. Armed with this knowledge we will move into 2021 with more focus on how and where we can aid captive tigers in Thailand.
We will continue to provide aid to the relocated Tiger Temple tigers by providing enrichment and additional enclosures. We also look forward to continuing our newly formed collaborations, combining to create a better future for Thailand’s captive tigers.
We thank you all for your support, especially through this very difficult year. Let’s look forward to a more positive 2021 and make those positive changes to the lives of captive tigers as well!