PHUKET – Australian tourist Paul Goudie was injured yesterday after being mauled by a tiger in the Tiger Kingdom park in Phuket, Thailand.
Witnesses at the scene said the attack took place when the man, Paul Goudie, 49, from Melbourne, stepped inside a cage to pet one of the larger tigers. Shortly afterwards, there was a rapid and unexpected attack during which the park attendants had to drag the victim to safety.
Mr Goudie sustained injuries to his stomach and legs and was later admitted to a Phuket hospital for emergency treatment. He is now said to be in satisfactory condition.
The Phuket Gazette reported Thung Thong Police superintendent, Col Thitirat Asakit told the press that Tiger Kingdom staff had been watching as Mr Goudie played with the tiger and had his photo taken with the big cat. “The staff were paying attention,” he added.
He said that the tiger bit Mr Goudie as he stood up. “Because his weight is over 119 kilograms, he can’t stand up easily, so staff were helping him to stand when the attack took place,” he explained.
He said that management thought the tiger might have believed Mr Goudie was attacking the staff, and that was why it had bitten him.
“The tiger may have felt protective towards the people who take care of it, so it bit him on the left calf. Mr Goudie has had 29 stitches to his wounds,” he added.
Despite safety and animal welfare concerns, Thailand’s tiger parks, where visitors are allowed to interact with the animals, have grown in popularity in recent years. There have, however, been numerous well-documented and even fatal attacks on tourists by so-called “tamed” and apparently submissive big cats.
Last year, a 19-year old British student, Isabelle Brennan, was left scarred for life after a 400lbs tiger knocked her to the ground and bit through her thigh at the Tiger Temple park in the Kanchanaburi district.
In 2011, a Thai woman suffered severe head and arm injuries after she was mauled by a tiger at the Million Year Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm located in East Pattaya. While in 2009, a woman from New Zealand was left hospitalized for weeks after touching a tiger’s head at the Khumsu Chiang Mai Tiger Center, in the north of Thailand.
Animal welfare groups have also called for an end to Thailand’s tiger attractions. In the past, Care for the Wild has uncovered evidence of their involvement in the trafficking of endangered animals, illegal breeding and the mistreatment of tigers. Rumors also abound that the tigers are drugged to keep them docile.