Star Tiger Zoo
1st Visit: 19th Aug 2016
2nd Visit: 11th Mar 2017
3rd Visit: 19th April 2018
Star Tiger Zoo lies in the province of Chayaphum, almost in the middle of nowhere, a 20 minute drive out of the town itself. On any visit performed by our researchers, there has never been that many people, with the first trip only having a school group. Apparently this zoo has been running at a loss for many years now and is also, according to a recent Bangkok post article , the front for some serious tiger trading. On any of the visits, this was not noticed by our researchers though that was to be expected. There was however an inordinate number of raccoons in many cages spread about the grounds.
First Visit: 19th August 2016
Once inside, our researcher instantly headed over to the tiger area - no tiger cubs as the map suggested but in fact two very large Malibu Storks. The remaining cages however, did hold tigers as advertised. Apparently there should have been 8 all told, however, only 7 were seen. 5 regular orange tigers (no idea what subspecies - the staff claimed they were Thai tigers) and two white tigers. The areas were small but some had some actual potential in that they contained faux rocks, a cave, platform, pond and logs.
Strangely though, whilst there was an area like this for every tiger, three of them were locked inside a bare 5x5 metre concrete cage with a single wooden platform and a water bowl, presumably for display purposes. It is unclear if they get rotated in and out otherwise what already looked to be a boring existence, would soon become mind-numbing. Only one of these tigers interacted at all, the rest remained lethargic and unresponsive despite it being 9.30am on a rather cool day.
As far as our researcher could tell, it seemed that the larger, more impressive males were the ones locked in the "display” areas and the smaller females were able to enjoy the relative freedom of the small enclosure. However these females were undernourished and skinny, from age or other reasons.
Right at the end of the line were two white tigers apparently called Hunter and Panther. These two seemed the most adjusted to their life but they also were left together thus aiding in some small but vital mental and physical stimulus. They were also provided with double the area, able to roam both in and out of the concrete cage and utilise the larger slightly more natural enclosure area. They were also exceptionally human-friendly, it is assumed that they were hand raised. Hunter in particular was very desirous to be touched and cheek rubbed the fence, chuffed and moaned the entire time.
At this point our researcher struck up conversation with the zoo worker who not only knew the tigers names but also seemed very happy interacting with them. A strange mix of care and lack of welfare; something discovered as more and more the norm in Thai facilities. During the conversation our researcher was also informed that two white lion cubs were due to arrive the coming Monday (22nd August 2016) supposedly arriving from England. There were no lions residing there even thought banners and signage declared that there were.
The overall impression and experience was a bad one. Small cages, uninterested and unresponsive tigers, no enrichment or stimuli. And it was almost more depressing to see the small efforts at trying to create an environment for the tigers only to have it ruined by the barren concrete cages next to them.
Second Visit: 11th March 2017
There was no change in the enclosures or cages that held the tigers. They were still clean, still had water and apart from the white tigers, it was one tiger per cage. However, the one tiger that had been interactive on the first visit was no longer present. Additionally there were three white lion cubs, old enough to have been the ones mentioned by the keeper the year before.
As before, it was the two white tigers that were social, interacting well with the researchers, chuffing and cheek swiping on the fence. There was also an enrichment programme of sorts put in place, which involved the public paying a little extra to put some meat on a stick for the white tigers to take - better than nothing.
One of the white tigers was limping, a number of the tigers were pacing and some were emaciated, possibly from age rather than starvation as all the other tigers looked healthy and well fed.
Third Visit: 19th April 2018
Once again there was no change in living conditions. The cages/enclosures were clean but without enrichment. Fresh water was provided but all tigers now had access to both the inner cage section and the outer, more natural area. There was the same number of tigers, just one of the older cages had been reused.
The feeding programme was still in place and the tigers still displayed the same general lack of interest and pacing behaviour as before, with the exception of the two white tigers. The lion cubs have grown up and now have been placed between the white tigers and the next tiger along. It is unclear whether this has become some kind of enrichment for the tigers, or whether it is actually a stressor - there is no clear separation between fences and the lions and tigers can, and did reach at each other through the links in the fence. A male and female tiger did pace next to each other, it seemed more in an attempt at contact rather than stereotypy.
Welfare is still generally poor with some tigers still emaciated in appearance.
How Many Tigers?
Each area comprised of a display cage set inside a larger more natural (though small) environment
Each contained a pond for bathing
Clean water was provided in each area
Grass and natural vegetation in small patches in the larger areas
Caves and some platforms as areas to climb, small ponds
Tigers in display cages were on concrete only. it is unknown whether they get rotated
Tigers in natural areas have a den, which they can hide in from the public
Physical & Mental Health
White tigers were clearly inbred
All bar one female appeared to be in good health
Tigers are declawed
Pacing observed in some of the tigers
Uninterested and unresponsive tigers
Two white tigers were very interactive and friendly. Clearly used to human interaction and like it.
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.