Tiger Kingdom is a breeding program for tigers that I visited recently near Chiang Mai, Thailand. Before going there, I knew there were going to be big tigers, medium tigers and baby tigers, so I was so scared but also very excited. My friends Dani and Jess, my aunt and I all went together and when we stepped into the building, my friends and I were saying goodbye to each other out of fear when we saw how big these tigers really are in person! I think in Thailand, they’re a little bit bigger and fatter than the ones I saw in zoos in the United States.
Because of my age and height, I wasn’t allowed to hug a giant tiger like I thought could, but that’s okay because that day, the big male tiger was a bit grumpy inside the cage with my aunt. I was allowed to pet and hug the medium-sized tigers, which are a little less than half the size of the full-grown, two-year old tigers. The medium tigers were so cute and gentle that they walked right beside me and I didn’t even have to worry about it, in fact, they even rubbed up against my leg like a cat because they were so gentle but still really playful. The medium-sized tigers were about six months to a year old and the about the size of a teenage Labrador (you know, those dogs that are really pretty and half of the time all black?).
I was surprised that the medium tigers had a weird texture, like porcupine quills mixed with a chinchilla, (chinchilla’s have the softest fur in the world, if that makes any sense). I thought the medium-sized tigers were the most adorable things I’d ever seen….
…until I walked past the newborn tiger room.
After leaving the medium sized tigers, and on the way to the babies that were probably about a month old or younger, my friends and I spotted the clinic for the new-born tigers that were probably about one week old and younger! These were about the size of a chihuahua except, with very thick skin and fluffy fur.
They were so young that they tried to stand up, their legs wobbled and they just plopped right back down on their butts. Their eyes were so bright blue they looked blind, which made me want to punch a wall because it was just so cute. Unfortunately, nobody was allowed inside of the newborn clinic except for employees.
Sad face. :(
So, when I finally got to the few week old babies, I was so mad because we weren’t allowed to go inside without our professional photographer, who took thirty minutes to arrive! The baby tigers have to be kept so sanitary that we washed our hands before going inside. Which is okay but silly because our hands got all tigered up once inside.
These baby tigers were the size of a small dachshund, which is why my friend Dani thought you’re not allowed to bring your purses into the area because they easily could fit inside our bags.
Once we got inside, I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest because a baby tiger came running right over to us as we sat down on the floor. I think the baby tiger loved Dani, Jess, my Aunt Shannon, and I the same amount because he distributed his love equally among us all. The baby tigers were even gentler than the medium tigers; while sitting on the floor, the baby tiger came up to me and crawled into my lap, crawled into my aunt’s lap, and then crawled into Dani and Jess’s lap without showing any sign that he was about to bite or scratch. I think the babies were probably the softest because they had the newest fur.
After about forty-five minutes of playing and taking pictures with a baby tiger, we had to leave.I was so sad because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with those baby tigers.
Some people think the tigers at Tiger Kingdom are drugged, but I don’t think they are at all because while I ate lunch near the big tiger cages, one of the tigers was swimming in the pool and running around with a toy in his mouth that he wouldn’t give up even though he was being poked by the trainers. Without knowing whether the tigers were drugged, we still went because first of all it’s good to know how you feel being around a tiger in a cage, to learn for yourself what it’s like, and second of all because we wanted to know if they really were drugged by the place just so tourists could pet a calm tiger.
I think Tiger Kingdom could improve itself and make it more ethical to visit by maybe in a couple of years still being a breeding program, but have as little human contact with the tigers as possible. So, maybe they could have a humongous enclosure where they release tigers born there. Then, maybe they could put animals, like deer and gazelles, in the enclosure so the animals don’t expect food and they learn how to hunt. Because the tigers would have barely any human contact, they could be released into the wild and free again knowing how to mate and hunt their own food.
Also, maybe Tiger Kingdom could teach visitors more about tigers, like where they are from, their population, how much they eat, and that sort of thing so that people are not only petting tigers, but they are learning more about them and how to help them not go extinct.
My favorite part of the day was probably getting to play with the baby tigers because they are just so cute, and really, when do you usually in your life get to pet a real tiger? I’m not totally torn up about not being able to pet the big tigers because I’m just glad I got to cuddle a tiger at all!
Do you think it’s a good idea to release the tigers back into the wild even though that means some people don’t get the chance to pet and play with tigers?