Watch: The cruel reality behind Thailand’s roaring tiger selfie trade
‘The once-in-a-lifetime experience of taking a picture with a tiger means a lifetime of cruelty for the tiger.’
Katie Stacey, a writer, and her boyfriend, Luke Massey, a wildlife photographer, headed to Thailand as undercover tourists to explore what happens behind the scenes at tiger tourism venues.
Tiger tourism is a flourishing business in Thailand, with the “tiger selfie” as its main attraction. Only 250 tigers remain in the wild in Thailand, while approximately 1,500 are kept in captivity at tourist venues, parks and zoos for the entertainment of tourists – often in cages or concrete enclosures, with a lack of hygiene and proper food, and with inadequate veterinary care and stimulation.
They are bred for the sole purpose of taking selfies and photographs.
The video above is part of a BBC series about animal exploitation in many countries. It shows a chained up tiger being jabbed and prodded repeatedly with metal rods for the Million Stone Park speciality – the “roaring tiger selfie”.
As for the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, it holds 350 tigers, who are kept in deplorable conditions and are extensively bred – some for pictures, and some for the circus show.
A vet and wildlife expert, Dr Schmidt-Burbach, speaks about the practice of speed breeding where tiger cubs are forcefully separated from their mother so that tourists can bottle-feed them. The mother, having lost her cubs, goes into a reproductive cycle quickly again. The cubs, meanwhile, are manhandled and thrown from lap to lap for pictures, while being starved.
Says Dr Schmidt-Burbach, “Tourists need to realise that their once-in-a-lifetime experience of taking a picture with a tiger means a lifetime of cruelty for the tiger. And if you can ride a wild animal, hug it or take a selfie with it, the chances are cruelty is involved, so just don’t do it.”