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The Truth about Tiger Kingdom

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The Truth about Tiger Kingdom

Interacting with real tigers

I wrote The Truth about Tiger Kingdom to separate rumours and lies from facts and truth. There are currently a lot of “information” regarding drugs and animal abuse at Tiger Kingdom in Thailand.

In 2014, I was accepted as a volunteer at Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai. I’d heard a lot of rumours about drugged animals and abuse. I went there to find out the truth for myself. After spending time with the veterinarian, the staff, tigers and visitors, I finally put together this blogpost to try and correct all the misconceptions on the internet.

Three years later, and I’m still finding “shocking news” and people claiming to know everything about Tiger Kingdom online. So I decided to pay Tiger Kingdom another visit in spring 2017.

News and changes at Tiger Kingdom

Less breeding and fewer cubs

Quite a few changes have taken place at Tiger Kingdom from 2014 when I first visited to 2017 when I re-visited. There’s now less breeding taking place as Tiger Kingdom is slowly making changes. In fact, when I was visiting there were no tiger cubs at the park. However, there are now a few playful lion cubs at Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai. The lions are born in a zoo in Thailand and Tiger Kingdom has an agreement to keep them at the park for the upcoming year before they are returned to the zoo.

In the past, adult tigers were retired at the age of three at Tiger Kingdom. This was due to safety concerns. At the age of three the tigers are fully grown and can sometimes be more difficult to deal with. But, the current tigers Mong Kon and Eff are very friendly at the age of four and they will continue working in the park as long as they remain so. When they retire in the future, they will continue to stay with Tiger Kingdom, at the current park or the New Park but visitors will not be able to pet them.

Tiger Cubs at Tiger Kingdom
Tiger Cubs at Tiger Kingdom

New education centre for visitors underway

There are some exciting plans brewing, unfortunately I don’t have the authority to reveal everything. BUT there are plans to build an education centre at Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai. This will allow visitors to be able to learn more about tigers, both captive and wild. Until the education centre is finished, ask the staff if you have any questions. Be in charge of your own education, leave the tigers with new knowledge!

The future of Tigers

Wild tigers and threats

In the last few years the numbers of wild tigers have gone up to around 3,890 from the estimated 3,200 in 2010, but there’s still a long way to go. Poaching and loss of habitat are still two major problems that threaten wild tigers. Some people believe that if they kill the tiger and keep their skin, they will possess part of their power. These old beliefs is the reason why tigers have such a high value on the black market. Others, kill tigers out of fear if they are seen too near a tribe or village.

Re-introducing captive tigers into the wild

It’s very complicated to re-introduce animals back into the wild. It’s not just a matter of letting them go. Most captive tigers do not know how to hunt or look after their cubs. They also don’t know to fear humans and hide from poachers, since they have previously associated them with food, care and play.

 

If we want to see a thriving tiger population in the wild in the future, we need to change our way of thinking. The government has some power, yes, but we as people have a say in how we want our government to use their power. I do believe that tigers belong in the wild, but we are the reason that they are not in the wild.

 

According to the World Wildlife Foundation 93% of tigers’ habitat has been destroyed. This is due to agriculture, timber and road development. The tigers that are left live in small groups which increases the risk of inbreeding and becoming the pray of a poacher.

Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Tigers at Tiger Kingdom

Working towards a sustainable future

The education centre at Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai is a new project that is being planned at the moment. This is just one of many steps to educate people about tigers and their behaviour. A lot of vet-students spend time at Tiger Kingdom to learn about these animals. If a wild tiger is found wounded, personnel from Tiger Kingdom is often called to help treat the animal because of their expertise knowledge. Captive animals can teach us how to help and care for wild animals, if done correctly.

 

We all believe that wild animals should stay in the wild. I believe that more zoos and animal parks are starting to understand this as well and are moving towards a more sustainable future.

 

Tiger Kingdom is hoping to use the New Park as a gateway to a change for captive tigers. They’re hoping to work together with The Wildlife Department to help conserve and protect tigers, both wild and captive. This is a long process, although it has already been started, it will take a long time for a big change to happen. I am hopeful that the hard work that we have seen in the last few years will continue to show results for tigers in the wild.

The truth about drug and abuse rumours

It starts with some careless unknowledgeable words from someone on the internet. Someone reads these words as the absolute truth and it is then spread in the digital world. Once something is up on the internet, it won’t come back down. That is how a rumour starts online, and that is how the rumour about drugged tigers at Tiger Kingdom started.

 

I’ve tried to clarify the truth about some of the most common rumours and incorrect information online below.  

Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Lions at Tiger Kingdom

How do you know the tigers aren’t drugged?

I spent my first five days at Tiger Kingdom together with the veterinarian of the park. He was in charge of food rations, nutrition supplements, the animals’ general health and the cubs and their well-being. 

 

During my entire stay at Tiger Kingdom, I would arrive before opening hours and leave after closing time with all the employees.  I spent a lot of time in the veterinarian’s clinic, I was there for feeding time both for the cubs and the adult tigers and I spent most of my time in the cages with the tigers themselves.

 

First of all; The tigers are fed early morning (sunrise) and at the end of the day when the tourists leave (sundown). It is impossible to “sneak” the tigers drugs unnoticed in the middle of the day, and there is no drug that would last an entire day.

 

Second of all; Putting aside the fact that there is no drug that would be effective for 12 hours straight, it is also dangerous to drug these animals. It could potentially make them drowsy and unaware of their surroundings, and thereby dangerous. But also, whenever a tiger needs treatment, it must be sedated for safety reasons. It is not safe for the tiger to be sedated for more than one hour without risk to its life.

Are the tigers abused?

I often see how people write online that the tigers are abused and beaten. This is completely incorrect. The trainers all love the tigers and treat them with respect and affection. The tigers are friendly and can be controlled by the staff because they have been taught since they were cubs what not to do just like you would teach a dog or a pet.

Are the tigers overfed?

It is true that most captive tigers suffer from being overweight. However, it is not limited to only tigers, but all captive animals. The issue lies in trying to replicate the natural diet and surroundings which is more difficult for some species than others. 

 

Visitors themselves and the expectations they bring with them on how a 'real tiger' is supposed to look is a real problem. Complaints about a tiger looking malnourished when it is the ideal weight are a regular occurrence as well as adoration for the chubbier and more huggable tigers. 

 

Tiger Kingdom has nutrition specialists that monitor the tigers food closely and keep tigers on a well-supervised diet to keep them healthy.

How do the tigers get exercise?

One obvious problem in providing enough exercise lies in the lack of space in zoos and animal parks. They simply do not have the capacity for the amount of animals they are housing. Moreover expansion of parks and zoo's is not always possible due to government restrictions, cost etc. 

 

Like most animal parks Tiger Kingdom has a certain amount of land that they are allowed to use. Currently they are at maximum capacity, which is why they are currently working on opening a new park.

 

In the meantime, the trainers do their best to keep the animals stimulated. You might have seen pictures where a member of staff is holding up a long stick with a big leaf dangling at the end of it. Some have said that this is abuse. But, in reality, this is actually a giant version of a house cat’s toy. It lets the tigers chase after it, as in if they were chasing a prey.

 

If you are lucky with the timing of your visit, you might see the tigers wrestling in the pools. A lot of people think that these big cats hate water, but at Tiger Kingdom they use the pools to cool down in when the day is at its hottest. You can also see the tigers doing a splash-about wrestling game when they are feeling particularly playful, which tends to happen more often with the younger ones.

Why are the tigers so friendly?

The younger an animal is, the stronger bonds it will create with its caretaker. By being raised by the trainers at Tiger Kingdom, the animal will learn to trust and build a relationship with this person. But each tiger has its own personality, some are friendlier than others, some more trustworthy and some are downright naughty. Just like any person, they are each unique.

 

They are raised as pets, and the staff tend to think of them a little as overgrown house cats. They are however fully aware of these animals’ nature and that they should never fully trust them. After all, they may not be wild in its proper meaning, but they are by no means domesticated.

 

The fact that they are lazy and sleep most of the day help a great deal when tourists pet and take pictures with these animals. When the tigers are awake and in the mood for play, it limits how close you as a visitor can get to these animals, and yet many tourists aren’t happy with a sleeping tiger even when it means they can lie down next to it and hug it.

Why do you separate the cubs from their mothers?

The cubs are indeed often separated from their mothers when they are newly born, this is for several reasons.

 

A big problem among captive animals is that the mothers do not know how to take care of their young, especially first-time mothers. Some mothers have no interest in their young and because of these reasons many cubs would’ve died unless humans intervened. The health of the cub is also an issue since the veterinary cannot properly check the cub while it is together with its mother.

Are tigers being sold on the black market?

Tigers are endangered and put under high protection in Thailand. All captive tigers are have individual micro chip numbers to identify them and are listed with the Wildlife Department. They’re very strict with checking on each individual tiger to make sure they’re all accounted for. This is to protect the tigers and make sure they are not illegal sold.

 

Tiger Kingdom sometimes move tigers within their three different parks, or between other zoos or animal parks, but most tigers stay in the park for the duration of their lives.

What happens when the tigers retire?

As a visitor at Tiger Kingdom you have quite a few different age groups of tigers that you can visit. You might have thought about what happens to the tigers when they are no longer cubs, and why the park isn’t overrun by adult tigers. 

 

Actually, the park is overrun by tigers, which is why there are now three parks and a fourth will be seen in a near future. The tigers retire from the tourist around the age of three when trainers deem it’s time. This is due to safety worries. The trainers still spend time with the retired tigers, and the tigers are still rotated so they get a chance to exercise.

A few selected tigers are also used for breeding, but as there is a big shortage of new genes inbreeding remains a problem with endangered captivity animals.

Retired Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Retired Tigers at Tiger Kingdom

Why aren’t you returning them to the wild?

All the tigers at Tiger Kingdom are born in captivity. A captive animal cannot be introduced into the wild without high costs and big time commitments, and even then their survival is not guaranteed. 

 

Even if there was a program to introduce these animals into the wild, where would they go? Where would they be safe from poachers and from each other? You cannot put just any tigers together and expect them to get along.

 

As far as I’m concerned, people are the ones who should be watching animals from within bars. But today that is not always possible, so then at least I feel like we should give these animals as much freedom as we possibly can within a cage.

 

Give them life quality. That is not an assignment, it’s an ongoing project.

The difference between Tiger Temple and Tiger Kingdom

It is important to note that there are in fact TWO very different parks in Thailand. The first is Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, which is famous for the monks who casually interact with the tigers. The second is Tiger Kingdom which has parks in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Ubon and a fourth park on the way.

Tiger Temple and chained tigers

Tiger Temple started with a monk who was given a large piece of land. People then (supposedly) brought animals to him to care for. That is how the park started. Today however the Tiger Temple is in the hands of the government. I do not know why there was a change in ownership, but there are many rumours circling around that I will not address in this article.  

 

I did visit Tiger Temple, but note that this was only as a visitor, just like all the other tourists. They have quite a large area of land that unfortunately could be used in a better way for the animals. The tigers at Tiger Temple were sleeping in the hot sun during my visit, which in itself is not very surprising considering their nature.

 

I did not expect to see that all the tigers were chained up and could not move around freely. A few of the younger tigers were walked around the park in a leash by employees. I had about 10 minutes in the tiger enclosure together with a stressed employee.

 

At the time of my visit, July 2014 the employees had to hold your hand for the entire stay inside the enclosure. I did not get a chance to take pictures myself but had to hand over my camera to the employee while I awkwardly posed with one tiger at a time. I also did not learn anything about the animals themselves during my visit.  I am sure that Tiger Temple has a way to give their animals the exercise they need, but I did not see how. 

 

Tiger Temple

Tiger Kingdom - A friendlier alternative

Tiger Kingdom is privately owned by a woman named Kochakorn Chaiyabut. (Update: The ownership of the park may change in the future due to the owners separating.)

 

The first branch of the company opened as Ubon Zoo in Thailand. In 2008, a second park was opened; Tiger Kingdom Chiang Mai. Within the last few years a third park has opened in Phuket. Due to lack of space, a fourth park will be opened in the future.

 

During my first time at Tiger Kingdom in 2014, what surprised me the most was the employees’ genuine concern and care for these animals. Often when no visitors were around the trainers would stay within the enclosure to play and pet these animals. New toys were made daily for the tigers and the animal caretakers often took personal offence when the visitors would criticise the tigers and their well-being.

 

Tiger Kingdom Love and friendship

Volunteering at Tiger Kingdom

My personal experience as a volunteer

The first friend I made at Tiger Kingdom in 2014 was little Penguin, a two-week cub with very poor vision. She was the only one who survived her litter, but she was too small to be put together with other older cubs.

 

In the beginning, I’d spend hours sitting in her cage while she slept in my lap or tried to pull at my jeans. She might not have been able to see, but with her accurate hearing and perfect sense of smell, she could still recognise me easily. 

 

There is a certain sound big cats emit when they are being friendly. It is a sort of “Hello, we’re friends” and it sounds like a BOOF. We would then BOOF” right back and then both tiger and human knew that it is safe to approach. This sort of hello is said to each tiger every single morning before the park opened to the public.

 

As the trainers were teaching me how to handle and approach the tigers, this was my first lesson. Always give each tiger a proper good morning at the start of the day.

 

From 11:00 I spent almost all my time inside the tiger enclosure with the medium and large tigers. My favorites were the biggest one, and especially a fellow named Sailom (wind).

He had a “I don’t care” kind of swag.

 

A lot of time was spent accompanying tourists in the enclosures and making sure they were constantly watched. But when I had a moment to myself I’d cuddle up to Sailom, and we’d lie in the burning sun together dozing. And I will forever miss those moments.  

 

My most precious memory from that time was being away from the park for two weeks without seeing my Penguin. During this time she had been moved into the enclosure with the smallest tigers where tourists could meet her.  Her vision had still not improved, but she had doubled in size from when I first saw her.

I entered the enclosure and “BOOFED” at her. She came running full force, and threw herself at me in a hug and buried her nose in my neck and hair. She then decided it was playtime, but that’s another story.

My Volunteering experience at Tiger Kingdom
My Volunteering experience at Tiger Kingdom

Re-visiting Tiger Kingdom in 2017

My first day back at Tiger Kingdom and i was attacked by hugs and a lot of You forgot Thai?? Why you dont speak Thai? It was great seeing familiar faces and stripes that I hadn’t seen for three years. A lot of the same staff was still around, making the same jokes but quite a few new faces had joined the park.

 

Mong Kon (Micheal) and Eff (Frankie) were still at the park, looking just the same, only bigger. They’re easy to remember. Eff has a spot on his nose and Mong Kon always had a beautiful face and loved the pool. He had a signature posé for his sunbathing in the pool. When I first met them, they were medium sized and now they’re parading around as full grown tigers. They are the giants of Tiger Kingdom now.

During one of the Wildlife Department’s routine visits to Tiger Kingdom I had a chance to join a team going to the New Park, which is not open to the public yet. I met little Vicky and Penguin, except they’re not so little anymore.

 

The part I had been looking forward to the most was meeting my Sailom. He was still as friendly as ever, with a giant head. He’d gotten a little taller, and a little slimmer since I last saw him. The new diet the nutritionist put him on has done good for him.

 

Old Dave, the lion was still around as well. I met him too, but he wasn’t as happy to see me… He always only liked Kong, the trainer. And he embarrassed himself by acting like a lovesick puppy when Kong came around. Love makes you do crazy things, whether you have paws or disposable thumbs.

Beautiful Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
revisiting Tiger Kingdom 2017

Visiting Tiger Kingdom

How to get there

Most people recommend paying for a songthaew or taxi for a few hours. The price will depend on your starting point and your ability to negotiate the price. In Chiang Mai, the price starts from 200-500 baht and up depending on if you’re sharing the cost with others or going alone. In Phuket you could take a taxi for around 100 baht to Tiger Kingdom from Patong beach (oneway). This was however a few years ago - prices have been increasing lately.

 

There are also a few alternatives for those on a budget. Here’s the local way of getting to Tiger Kingdom.

 

Chiang Mai: Yellow songthaews leave from Chang Phueak Bus Terminal every 15 minutes and drops you off at the intersection on the main road. From there it’s approximately 10 minutes by foot. You can’t miss it, there are massive sign posts. Price is 40 baht one way.

 

 

For your return, the songtaew stops only along the main road, so you need to cross the road and wait patiently. Don’t forget to ask if they go to Chang Phueak Bus Terminal!

 

Phuket: I’ve heard that there are blue songthaews that leave from the end of Patong Beach and go to Tiger Kingdom. Price is supposedly 25 baht oneway. This information is not confirmed, please ask in advance!

 

Prices to enter the tiger and lion enclosures

Single tickets:

Giant tiger: 1,300 Baht includes 10 photos on a CD

Big tiger: 700 Baht

Medium tiger: 600 Baht

Small tiger: 600 Baht

Smallest tiger: 1,300 Baht

Lion: 500 Baht

 

Professional photographer: 299 Baht per enclosure includes 30 photos on a CD

Additional 8 GB USB: 300 Baht

 

Packages:

Big OR Medium + Smallest enclosures: 1,800 Baht includes a photo frame

Giant + Medium OR Lion: 1,500 Baht

Big OR Medium + Lion: 1,000 Baht

 

What to bring:

Camera

Sunglasses

Sunscreen lotion

A hat or cap

A friend (so that you can take pictures for each other - staff is not allowed to help)

 

What not to bring:

Selfie stick (not allowed in the cage)

High heels (uneven ground)

Friendly tigers at Tiger Kingdom
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34 Responses

  1. Thon
    |

    Thanks Vicky

    Well said

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you for reading Thon. Sorry for the very delayed response. We’re back in business here on the website and we will be back in Thailand to share more stories in April. But for now please stay with us to read about travel advice and the secret spots in Japan. Our newsletter will be going out shortly. Best Regards, Vicky.

  2. Paul goudie and family
    |

    Well written Vicky
    I can speak with first hand noledge that these tigers at T/Kim are well loved by all staff and taken care of better than a lot of zoo’s
    I am a victim of an unfortunate accident back in 2014
    and know nearly all the staff and owner very well. Any fb or news to degrade tiger kingdom are pure bullshit, az i stated i am speaking from experience
    I have been back there to visit my friends who are like family and to see my old sparing partner and have been privileged enough to spend time with 60 day old cubs along with family and there children. At all times the number one priority to staff is the animals.
    EXCELLENT TOURIST ATTRACTION
    YOU WILL NOT B DISAPPOINTED.
    See with your eyes listen with your own ears and ask questions! Best wishes too all my exstended tiger kimdom family love you all miss you all see you soon.😊

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you Paul for your kind words. It makes me happy to hear that more people have had great experiences at Tiger Kingdom, and that they know that the animals are treated well. However, I did not write this to promote the park as a tourist attraction. I wrote it to clear up at least part of all the incorrect information circling the internet. All the best to you Paul!

  3. Mr. Wynn
    |

    Dear Vicky Taylor,

    Greeting! from Tiger Kingdom. I am Wynn as a General Manager at Tiger Kingdom in Phuket branch. On behalf of Tiger Kingdom we would like to express sincere thanks and appreciation to you, regarding what you have written your great learning voluntary experience during working at our Chiang Mai branch on your travel website.

    It is important and authentic communication voice, particularly on social media network, from customer sides rather than we are trying to explain to public by our own voice. We really appreciated on your helping us sharing the fact of knowledge and information about Tigers nature as well as the way how we treat and care for their welfare.

    With this concern I therefore would like to ask for your kind consent to let us put your link on our website: http://www.tigerkingdom.com or perhaps print all your pages posing on our welcome board just purpose for our customers to get more information and understanding?

    For your next available holiday please come to visit our Tiger Kingdom in Thailand again at any time.

    Yours sincerely,

    Wynn.

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you Mr. Wynn for your words. I did learn a lot from my time at Tiger Kingdom, and in the future I wish to work with wild animals and endangered animals. I absolutely give my consent to both linking this post and printing the post. It is important for me as well to spread this message, many tourists were very rude both to me and to the staff during my time with you because they would not believe that the tigers were not drugged. I hope more people get a chance to read this. And I will absolutely visit in the future, there are a lot of familiar faces waiting for me. Thank you, and please keep doing a great job! 🙂

  4. Eric Craik
    |

    Excellent piece of writing. I have visited Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai and I can vouch for the fact that the animals are looked after by their handlers. You can see the bond between handler and tiger. I know there are many people who are against zoos and circuses, sometimes for the right reasons. I can say that in my visits to Tiger Kingdom I never saw any tigers being forced to perform for the visitors. Everything was done on the tiger’s terms, as it should be. I have never visited Tiger Temple, but I have heard first hand reports that were very negative, so I did not go. Tiger Kingdom on the other hand is an excellent place to visit and I would encourage everyone to give it a go.

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you very much Eric for reading, and thank you for your comment. I am happy to hear that more people have left the park with a good impression.

  5. wayne owen
    |

    good place the tigers seem all happy

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you for reading, and please keep following us. Our newsletter will be going out shortly and we will be back in Thailand this spring. Best Regards, Vicky.

  6. Blanchard
    |

    I totally approved your feedback. Thank your for sharing the truth. You found the right words to say !
    I had a wonderful time with the tigers at Chiang Mai Tiger Temple. Thank you for making their life better.

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you very much for your comment, and thank you for reading. Since my previous visit, they have now opened a new park for the retired tigers. I will be back in Thailand this spring to follow up on my article. Please keep following us, our newsletter will be going out shortly. Best Regards, Vicky

  7. Jo. U.K.
    |

    One of the best experiences of my life I went twice in one week, an between the time I went the pool was totally cleaned out which I was very impressed with.
    I loved the naughtiness of one id the smallest tigers who bit my tshirt.
    My father passed away while I was in Thailand an if it wasn’t for visiting these tigers I think it would hold completely different memories for me.
    I would love to visit again one day.

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Thailand is more than just “a country” to me, it makes me happy to hear about your experience.

  8. Sian To
    |

    I visited Tiger Kingdom in Phuket two years ago. As a cat loving family we loved it and will definitely be go back when we return to Phuket later this month. Here are some pics from our last visit https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/103692852073756265923/albums/6025849997632970321

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Hi Sian, thank you for sharing your story with us! 🙂

  9. Helen Powell
    |

    From what I have read it sounds like we were the luckiest people to visit Tiger Kingdom, Chiang Mai….we were there 4 years ago and had the best experience…….after booking our trip to Thailand which was a week in Bangkok and a week in Phuket we started looking at what we wanted to do, I had been told about the Monks and their Tigers but when I started researching it I very quickly realised that unless you were prepared to spend a large amount of money the only experience you could do was have a photo taken with a chained Tiger…….when I discovered Tiger Kingdom we actually left the hotel we were staying at to fly to Chiang Mai, book a nights accomodation and fly back to Bangkok and it worked out cheaper than to do the Tiger encounters with the monks.
    We have cats at home so when we planned out trip to Tiger Kingdom we expected them to be cats and also expected them to behave like cats, just bigger versions…..we organised to get there for when the park opened and we were amazed at the service we received from the minute we walked in, we wanted to do all the encloses and had already read online about the photographer for each enclosed, to our surprise we were offered a discount because we chose to do all the encloses, we actually felt a little guilty because it was so cheap to start with, our first experience was with the smallest cubs, there were 4 cubs and at one stage we were lying on the floor with all the Cubs crawling over us, the next enclose we had 4 Cubs that were about 6 -8 months old and were behaving like kittens and were wrestling ( for the not so nice people who are saying that the tigers are drugged, no way would they be playing the way they do if they were) the second last enclosed had cats that were around 12 – 18 months old and were playing in the pool with the handlers on the outside with the giant cat toys, this was prob the best experience, these powerful cats jumping up to 6 feet above the water chasing the toys, we were also lucky enough that after being in the enclosures we were told we could spend as much time as we wanted to just wondering around the park so we had something to eat and when we went back to the smallest Cubs enclosed just to watch them and there was a handler bottle feeding the Cubs….we then picked up our photo’s and between all the enclosures they took over 300 of them…..the whole day cost us $114 australian( remember it was 4 years ago) I visited the gift shop and walked away with 2 bags of souvenirs which included 2 t-shirts, coasters, key rings, photo frames and a stuffed toy and got change from 1000 baht(less than $30 Australian) we have since been to the new Tiger Kingdom at Phuket, that was about 2 years ago, during our visit we were talking to the handler of the largest Tigers and he told us he came from Chiang Mai with the Tigers when they were moved, he also told us he has been their handler since they were young Cubs so we think they may have been the same 4 cats that wer saw 2 years earlier….it’s the best place to visit, they are well cared for and certainly not drugged, I giggled when I read that some of the Tigers seem fat and overweight, we went to the zoo here in Sydney about 6 months or so after returning from Thailand and the Tigers here seem skinny compared to the ones over there

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Helen, thank you for sharing your experience. Yes, it was most likely the same tigers you met 4 years earlier. They just end up moving enclosure when they grow bigger.

  10. Phonphawit Ton-od
    |

    Very impressive for me.

  11. Adrian Fleur
    |

    Excellent post. Exactly what I have been repeating to people countless times when they accuse me of supporting animal abuse by supporting Tiger Kingdom. I am the biggest animal advocate I know, and I firmly stand by the work Tiger Kingdom does. Thanks for this eye-opening post. You can read mine here if you like: http://marketofeden.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/a-visit-to-tiger-kingdom.html

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Thank you for reading. I had a look at your blog post, and the “snarly” face that you mention is actually the face tigers make when they smell something funny (for example another tiger’s urine.) 😉

  12. Anne
    |

    Hey there!!

    Just to let you know, I loved your post, recently went to Tiger Kingdom branch in Phuket and had a really great time. I wrote a post on my blog about the whole experience and the ongoing debate about “tiger farms” I mentioned you in the end and put a link up to your blog 🙂 ! Just so you know, I already saw that people clicked through, now you know where the referrals are coming from! GREAT WORK 🙂 Cheers!

    • Vicky Taylor
      |

      Hi Anne,
      Thank you very much, both for your comment and the link. I’m happy you enjoyed your time there! 🙂 Happy travels!

  13. crissie tiger
    |

    Vicky. while I do believe your heart is in the right place. Why are they breeding tigers if there are already so many that you have to have 4 parks?! stop breeding the tigers, let the rest live out their days in peace. This place isn’t recognised by any breeding programmes, i doubt gives anything to any form of conservation project that is actually ensuring conservation of tigers and their prey and habitat in the wild. crissie

    • Vicky Taylor
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      Hi Crissie,
      Thank you for your comment. I apologise it has taken us this long to get back to you. I have has some health issues. There are very few wild tigers left in Thailand, and in the world. We have created a world today where there is no space for tigers, they have no habitat left and they are being hunted down. If there were no captive tigers, we might see the end of these beautiful animals. The sad thing is that it is the cubs and baby animals – in all zoos and parks that attract the most visitors, and makes it possible to keep these animals in the first place. Please don’t forget that the purpose of captive animals was originally to help us learn about them. It breaks my heart to see how little is done to preserve these animals – I will be returning to Thailand in April and I will be trying to get an interview with the wildlife conservation in Thailand to see what is actually being done as well as follow up with Tiger Kingdom, and their new park for retired tigers. Please keep following us. Our newsletter will start going out shortly. Best Regards, Vicky

  14. Hannah
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    Hi Vicky,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m a huge animal lover and to go visit a tiger up close and personal would be a dream! I’m visiting Phuket in April and have been so double minded about whether to visit or not. There are so many horror stories online and I’ve just been so double minded as the last thing I would want to contribute to is the mis-treating of these beautiful creatures. Your experience is really reassuring that this is not the case in Tiger Kingdom. I’ve also read so many stories about elephant trekking in Thailand and how horrible this is. I would still love to go see the elephants and have been researching online and came across Elephant Jungle Sanctuary which does not promote riding or abuse. Is this something you know of or would be able to share some advice on?

    Thanks again,
    Han

    • Vicky Taylor
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      Hi Hannah,
      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I’m actually planning to re-visit Tiger Kingdom in a few months. I’ll be posting a follow-up article and video so keep your eyes open for that. 🙂

      Regarding the elephants, this is a bit of a problem. For elephants to be ‘safe’ around people (not attack them), then need to be ‘broken in’, this is a kind of abuse. This means that the babies are separated from the mothers when they are very young. This is a very awful experience for both the mother and child. This is the only way to ensure the safety of people. So the elephants you see in Sanctuaries etc. have all been broken in. I visited an elephant park in Chiang Mai but learned quickly that these elephants were used to make money on treks and performing. If the elephants are made to perform, trek or paint – then I feel like it’s not a real sanctuary. However, having said all of this, it’s important for the elephants that have been rescued from abuse to go somewhere to live out their days. I had a look at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, and to me that looks like a good place to visit. They are very good with information about elephants and what is considered abuse. I would personally like to visit this Sanctuary. Good luck there, and please keep me updated! Vicky

  15. Mike
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    Thank you for this. Unfortunately I heard that they were drugged and I believed it for a long time. I understand now that is not true. Since these parks get very busy with tourists, which park do you think would be better to visit, the one in chiang mai or phuket?

    • Vicky Taylor
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      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. I personally recommend the park in Chiang Mai. The staff is friendly, and they have lion cubs now! These cubs are from a private zoo in Thailand. I also recommend going early so you’re there when they open to avoid crowds. Keep your eyes open for my follow-up article about Tiger Kingdom. (3 years later) It will be online in about one week. 🙂 Enjoy and let us know how your visit was!