For years there have been images circulating of a depressed tigress who, after losing her cubs, adopted some piglets. The tale seems to have originated from Thailand's Sriracha Tiger Zoo where tigers and pigs are seen living together in apparent harmony.
Unlike some recent reports have suggested, the zoo has been placing small tiger cubs to suckle alongside a sow, and placed piglets in a glass-fronted cage with a large tigress, Saimai, for years. Apparently, so the story goes, Saimai was raised on pig milk, which made her more docile. Because of this docility, and the fact that she was comfortable in the presence of pigs, the tigress was kept housed with her piggie friends.
But this is all a fiction.
Chasing a pig
Fast forward to today where a tourist captured why this mixed species living is not appropriate. While watching the latest tigress (not the same one as the original, though she keeps the same name), the young cub - she's just under 2 years old - suddenly jumped up and grabbed one of the piglets who squealed loudly. A distraction from the staff and the tigress dropped the piglet unharmed.
However, the shock of the incident prompted the tourist to publish the video online (video credit to FB user Preeyanuch Natthapa) with allegations of animal cruelty, eliciting an inspection of the venue by the authorities. Upon visiting, they indeed found the setup with the tigress living with the piglets explaining to management that it was inappropriate living conditions and demonstrating why the videos seemed cruel. Acknowledging this, the zoo has announced the closure of this exhibit, with the piglets now separated from the tigers, though they added that usually the pigs and tigers got along.
While the zoo appears to want its visitors to think this harmonious living is all the same tiger, this is not the case. The images below were taken in 2017 (left) and 2019 (right), both listing the same named tiger with essentially the same bio, but different birth dates.
A visit in 2018 revealed the training process of the tigresses and the pigs. Hidden in the back was a small cage where a tigress was being fed alongside some piglets. Both groups did appear to ignore each other, though the tigress was being fed first and later appeared content to eat chicken alongside the piglets (see video below). However, this mixed species living is clearly a forced relationship rather than one born naturally.
Why is this mixed species living poor welfare?
At this point, it may be confusing as to why the tiger chasing the piglet is such a bad thing, after all, tigers would naturally chase and hunt pigs. And that's exactly why this is such an issue.
This pairing of tigers and piglets is an unnatural one, created through training rather than a genuine acceptance from each of the animals. What may have started as a genuine bond with the first Saimai, is now nothing more than a continued publicity stunt. And this can be stressful for both sides thus eliciting poor welfare.
The older tigresses do seem to completely ignore their pig "friends", but it's a different situation entirely with the much younger tigress.
Prey - Pigs are a prey species. A normal reaction in the presence of a predator will be flight. The piglets are confined, unable to get away from their perceived predator, even if it isn't chasing them, which creates a very stressful living environment.
Predator - It can be stressful for the tiger too, as she is being prevented from pursuing natural behaviours such as hunting. Having prey tantalisingly close, but be unable to hunt can be frustrating.
Of course there is also the issue that the exhibit these animals are being kept in is also inappropriate for either species, but that's another issue entirely.
Whichever way you look at it, this situation brings nothing of value to any of the animals involved. It is only meant as entertainment for misinformed tourists.
It's not cute.
It's not peaceful.
And it's not harmonious.