PHUKET – Tiger Kingdom in Phuket has re-opened to the public following the mauling of an Australian man inside one of its enclosures last week. The park had closed for two days after Paul Goudie, 49, from Melbourne, was left needing surgery and dozens of stiches to his stomach and legs after entering the cage of a large male tiger for photographs.
Despite the life-threatening nature of the attack and major concerns about the welfare of the animals, tiger tourism looks set to continue on the holiday island. Tiger Kingdom told Telegraph Travel today that all facilities were fully open and that it would cost 900 THB (£17) to pose with a small tiger and 1000 THB (£19.25) to enter the cage one of the larger animals. Visitors would be accompanied by a handler and restricted to a maximum of ten minutes. It appears that no new procedures have been put in place since Mr Goudie was injured.
In a video interview with local newspaper, The Phuket News, Mr. Goudie apportioned no blame to the tiger and said he hoped the cat’s life would be spared. A spokesperson for Tiger Kingdom,
Tanawin Boonpang, reportedly claimed that the attack was a result of the big cat’s overprotective nature. He suggested that the tiger was trying to defend a staffer whom Mr Goudie had reached out to when trying to stand up.
Animal welfare groups, however, have condemned Tiger Kingdom, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) describing captivity as a “living hell” for the cats.
“Tiger Kingdom – which has long been the subject of intense scrutiny for its treatment of the animals imprisoned within its walls – gives people the warped idea that these animals are little more than cuddly kitties who can be used and abused for our entertainment.
“But captivity does not extinguish all the genetic drives that tigers are meant to follow. “Attacks by captive big cats on people – which occur with staggering regularity – illustrate the profound level of stress, anxiety and agitation these animals experience every day of their lives. In captivity, they cannot engage in any of the activities that give their lives meaning.”
In the past, Care for the Wild, a British-based wildlife charity, has also called for tigers to be housed in significantly larger enclosures and for an end to all physical contact between animals and the public.
The opening of a new Dolphinarium in Chalong, Phuket, has also met opposition, with more than 15,000 people signing a petition onagainst it. While it is illegal to capture wild dolphins in Thailand’s water, the mammals can be imported without impunity.
There are also thought to be more than 4,000 captive elephants in Thailand, the majority of which are put to work in the tourism industry. Their plight is also complex as there is not enough forest to them to be released into and simply ending their role in the tourist industry could result in them being uncared for and unfed.
John Edwards Roberts, director of elephants & conservation activities at the Anantara Resorts & Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, suggests that visitors to animal camps should look for the following: “Check if there is enough woodland for the elephants to get forest time and have room to interact, or to get away from one another.
“In the camp itself, can you see that the elephants receive a balanced diet?
“And lastly, do the elephants have a lot of wounds on the head or behind the ear, back of the legs? Or a lot of purple stains in places where puncture wounds need to be treated?”
Additionally, visitors to elephant camps should look for a promise that no wild animals are taken from their natural habitat and ensure that camps have a veterinarian on the payroll.