The Controversial Tiger Tourism of Thailand

Tiger Tourism in Chiang Mai, Thailand

“The Tigers are drugged, it’s so cruel!” Is what I heard time and again about the controversial Tiger Tourism of South East Asia (& particularly Thailand). I was really undecided on what I was going to do. I love Tigers but I didn’t want to support an industry that drugs animals for the sake of tourism. Alas, I decided to experience it for myself. This is what I discovered.

The Controversial Tiger Tourism of Thailand

Whilst in Chiang Mai, our last stop in Thailand, we decided to visit Tiger Kingdom (also located in Phuket and Bangkok).

We were really undecided about doing this. We’d heard from multiple sources that the tigers were drugged, something we were entirely against. But after reading this company’s website, which promised the Tigers were not drugged and merely hand raised from birth and naturally sleepy animals, we decided to give it a go. You can choose from four sizes/ages of tigers. We decided that if the Tigers really weren’t drugged that we’d go with the smallest, to be safe.
The tuk tuk cost us $3 each for a return trip, with the driver happy to wait in the car park for a few hours whilst inside. What a deal!

The Controversial Tiger Tourism of Thailand After washing our hands and wearing special shoes to eliminate spreading germs we were allowed into the enclosure. We got to spend about thirty minutes (we were told fifteen so it was a pleasant surprise) in the enclosure with the Tigers. It was incredible, they are such beautiful and clever animals.
We are so glad we chose the smallest Tigers as they were still almost as long as us. They were quite playful, especially when you tickled them, when they weren’t sleepy. They did like to sleep but it definitely didn’t feel like it was an unnatural sleep. Anyone who has a cat as a pet knows that cats are lazy and sleep a lot (I think mine sleeps for at least twenty hours a day)!

The Controversial Tiger Tourism of Thailand

After our time was up we went and admired the littlest Tiger cubs, only a few weeks old, from outside their enclosure. The venues vet was inside with them, letting them climb all over him in order to get them used to being around humans. They were absolutely adorable. They could barely walk, their feet sliding all over the floor and they made the cutest noises. They’d come right up to the enclosure walls and let us stroke their heads. Their was a sign flashing common questions and answers with one saying ‘No, you cannot buy a Tiger,’ obviously everyone loves them a bit too much.

Afterwards we went walking around the rest of the park, admiring the White Tigers, admiring the Lion (why they had a lone Lion in a tiger kingdom, I don’t know) who if we wanted we could have stroked through the cage he was so close and loved watching the bigger Tigers play in the pool they had.

The Controversial Tiger Tourism of Thailand

We all definitely agreed that these Tigers were not drugged, as the venue states. They were too playful and energetic. Watch this video and see for yourself how playful they were.
My verdict? Avoid Tiger Temple and other institutions that drug and chain the Tigers. If playing with un-drugged, hand-raised and playful Tigers is on your bucket list? Visit Tiger Kingdom. I truly believe this is the best place you should do it. At least in Thailand.

What is your verdict on this very controversial subject?
Have you been? Would you go?
Let me know in the comments below! 

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  • Reply Louise 30/04/2017 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Sasha,
    I really couldn’t help but comment on this. I find you extremely hypocritical in this post. You say you “love tigers” and “don’t want to support an industry that drugs animals for the sake of toursim”. And yet you decide to support the industry by paying to visit, and taking all of these pictures with these beautiful creatures promoting this barbaric industry. Firstly, them being “hand raised” means the cubs are taken from their mothers as soon as they are born, and are reared by humans instead, making them completely reliant on humans for food and care. Once the tigers reach the age of about 2 years they are separated and kept in cages in isolation, because otherwise they would be inclined to fight with each other. They only come out of these cages to have their pictures taken with hundreds of humans a day, then back into the cage on their own. They are also “trained” by being hit on the nose with little bamboo sticks if they do anything wrong. They are “re-trained” every morning. They also withhold food and water regularly in order to reinforce the dominance of the humans. Some tiger parks squirt the urine of other tigers in the faces of the tigers, which is recreating an act of dominance that tigers in the wild would use. Basically, this is a horrible industry – wild animals are not for humans to take selfies with. I know it is tempting to get that perfect instagram shot, but please, next time you travel somewhere and you suspect animal cruelty, just don’t go. The same can be said for the elephant ride you participated in in Laos – any elephant that lets a human ride on its back has likely been beaten as a baby. Please no more Sasha 🙁

    • Reply Seven Continents Sasha 02/05/2017 at 12:45 pm

      You make valid points Louise and I respect your opinion and your right to express it but let me ask you- do you eat meat, drink dairy, ride horses, wear leather shoes, go to the zoo or aquarium? Why are there rules for one animal but not others? Just curious.

  • Reply Morgan 19/02/2016 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for the read! How much did this cost you?

    • Reply Seven Continents Sasha 21/02/2016 at 2:27 am

      Hi Morgan,
      Thanks for reading 🙂
      The most expensive option is the equivalent of $30 Aus Dollars 🙂

  • Reply Amy 27/11/2015 at 3:35 am

    This is a really interesting read. I too have only heard and seen terrible things about these places – tigers are my absolute favourite animal in the world and no matter how much I’d love a cuddle I could never bring myself to visit places like this. Interesting to read your experience though – I think its a very obvious thing to see if an animal is drugged or not. I’m planning to go to Chiang Mai in February… might look into this more. I can always leave if I don’t feel comfortable. But so good you had a lovely experience – these photos are gorgeous!

    • Reply Seven Continents Sasha 28/11/2015 at 4:47 pm

      Thanks Amy! It is such a tough topic, we agonised over the decision to visit for weeks and weeks but I’m glad we did. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer in things like this. Glad this gave you something to think about!

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