A Visit to Tiger Kingdom

For Christmas I instructed my boyfriend to drive us to Mae Rim, where I tried to trick him into believing we were doing something utterly uneventful. As we took the turn off the main road out of the city, huge signs started pouncing out of the bushes showing white lions and yawning tigers. I tried to feign deafness when he started yelling, "We're going to go see Richard Parker!" (ironically, we had just seen Life of Pi at the cinema the previous evening), although once we were walking inside, I finally admitted that we might actually be doing something pretty eventful after all.

We found ourselves in a large reception area full of excited, chatty tourists who were all waiting to buy a ticket, or perhaps for something else (I still have many years of tourist behaviour to study). When my boyfriend and I eventually got our chance at the front desk, we chose to buy a ticket each for the medium tigers, aged 9 - 12 months. We would get 15 minutes with the cats, and although there was an option to have photos taken for an extra cost, we opted to take our own. You can find the rest of the prices for the different tigers on the Tiger Kingdom Website.

Once we had our tickets, we were led into the park itself, and before we knew it we were in the enclosure with the cats. The guide was a big laid-back Thai man who almost reminded me of a tiger himself, and he gave us whatever information he could between our beginner's Thai and his broken English. These cats were considered teenagers, and were becoming more and more boisterous, with lots of energy to burn. This meant they would soon be moved into another enclosure, where many of them would not be safe to play with tourists at the Kingdom anymore. The man said that some of them would go to zoos or other tiger parks, where they could live out their days in comfortable captivity.

Hello Beautiful.
On the motorbike on the way home, my boyfriend and I had a discussion about our experience (this is actually where we have many of our deeper conversations, shouting at each other through our helmets, and incessantly repeating words like "Huh?" or "What?"). I was of the opinion that although creatures in captivity are a sad sight to behold, this is in many ways their only means of survival. He was of a similar opinion, but more curious about whether these animals were drugged, and to what extent their natural instincts had been trained right out of them for the sake of human safety. In the modern world, survival has become an outdated word. Wild animals are no longer surviving in their natural homes. Just because it's a fact doesn't mean it's right by any means, but we are not living in an ideal world. And because of that, is it not better for these animals to survive, even in captivity? Is it not better for them to avoid extinction, and for us to strive to breed them and raise them, even if that means they are somewhat domesticated, or more docile? And although it is unfortunate that exploitation must be used for monetary gain, is it not for the greater good when that money is used to care for the animals?

There were many questions left unanswered from our visit to the Tiger Kingdom, but at the end of the day I was glad to have seen actual living tigers, even in an enclosure, surrounded by snap-happy humans. That was a far better sight to me than no tigers at all.

UPDATE: Growing up in South Africa I was exposed to many issues related to wildlife conservation from a young age, and I stand by my belief that it is better for wildlife to survive in captivity as opposed to dying in the wild (just as our rhinos and lions in South Africa are only surviving in a form of captivity - they have long ago been wiped out in the wild just as tigers have in Asia). While it's a horrible reality that leaves us with those options, and I personally feel uncomfortable with the concept of caged animals in any form, I have to face the facts: there is no other alternative except extinction. Humans are not going to wake up tomorrow and decide to live as one with the earth and not bring harm to other living beings - no, they will wake up with their loaded guns and go out and kill them as usual, for whatever profit or pleasure. So when a place like Tiger Kingdom makes a tidy profit and us as tourists have a pleasurable experience, I find that to be the lesser evil by leaps and bounds. Which is why I won't write it off as one of "these places" as many people are quick to say (also, everybody conveniently seems to become an activist behind a keyboard). And that is merely one facet of the discussion I am trying to encourage with this blog post, so please don't be afraid to share. I will not, however, tolerate rude or nasty comments that do not contribute any value to this important and multi-faceted debate. 

Check out my photos from our visit to Tiger Kingdom:

Sleepy kitty.
Me and my yawner.
Tail love.
My boyfriend and his tiger, who suffered from a snarly face.
Big wet cat. Awesome!
Playing with some reeds.

A random Simba somewhere in the park.


  1. Awesome pictures! Great topic as well...is it better for tigers to go extinct or become domesticated?? I say domesticated because they are pretty!

  2. Me too. I would rather have them around than not at all. Big pretty cats!

  3. Difficult topic you have raised. controversial actually. I too would love to see a tiger, and even more interact with them. But are they happy in confinement or does it make us happy. It is part of evolution for species to become extinct. We too will one day die out. Many people find that hard to believe. I think we try (including me) to save animals because we fear extinction. I do not think that a wild animal can be happy in a zoo in fact I think all zoos should be closed down. Their justifications to stay open are breeding, education etc. But only we, the human are happy that wild animals are kept from extinction when in actual fact we so are close to the end with global warming that it is arleady too late. It is easier for us to live in denial and save the tiger.

    1. The thing is, we have to take responsibility for our actions. These endangered animals are not dying due to evolution, they are dying because we are killing them. What you are proposing we do, is letting hundreds of species die out because of human greed. We need to upkeep the ecosystem, and we owe it to the animals we are killing to keep their species alive. I do not agree with the inhumane keeping of animals, but I do agree with zoos (as long as the animals have sufficient room and are taken care of.) We need to keep these animals alive as we continue to work against poaching in the wild. Maybe in 300 years we will have the capability of ending poaching all together, and we can start restocking the wild with these animals that deserve a right to live. But, if we let them die out, whether we can stop poaching or not, we will never be able to have these animals back in the wild again. We need to look towards long term solutions for this, not short term. Yes, we have tigers in zoos and they may not be living a life AS happy as one in the wold, but at least they are alive. And one day these tigers will be back in the wild and living happily. Short term solutions would be just to let them die out because we don't want to see some tigers in captivity. Preservation is key, otherwise humans will end up destroying this entire planet. We need to be proactive, not just sit there and watch our own species kill everything.

  4. Thank you for bringing that to the table - very interesting! I suppose it is selfish to want to keep them around, but I'm sure it also has to do with our guilt for accelerating their extinction. It certainly eases my conscience to be able to see and interact with them in a place where they seem happy and taken care of, as opposed to reading in the newspaper that they are extinct. We are so removed from our collective global actions that it becomes such a personal and profound experience to touch a living tiger, knowing that they are pretty much extinct in the wild just like many other animals. It must be similar to touch a redwood tree or swim in an undisturbed reef. These things will disappear eventually, but how much of it is our doing? And what do we owe while they are still around?

    1. I thnk your question 'what do we owe' is on the mark. We do haved an obligation. I have snorkeled reefs, all of them 'disturbed' by humans with litter but I had the joy of the experience and our reefs are under great threat. Thankyou for the insight

  5. Another factor, the Chinese and other traditional medicines that require tiger parts as their ingredients. This trend has been probably the most threatening to wildlife conservation. Wild animals trade has been ranked third only after narcotics and war machines! Another reason why these precious beasts may not be easily protected from the poacher in the wild, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN ILLEGAL TRADES.

  6. I always have to question people when they tell me their drugged, but when you research enough you will find they sleep all day and the older ones at Tiger kingdom get really boisterious like you said. So then they get more removed from humans because they are still wild, but what about in however many years when they are more tamed? Then at least they won't be extinct! And isn't that what we all want at the end of the day?

  7. My opinion is that places like this are helping to keep animals in a safe, though far from ideal, environment in a fast-changing and generally animal-unfriendly world. Tigers (and many other well-known animals) are an endangered species as their natural environment is fast disappearing or already decimated.

    I know to some people keeping animals in a domestic or captive environment (even domestic pets like dogs and cats or domestic animals like chickens, pigs and cows) and keeping animals in order to make money from them is considered a form of animal cruelty. I have to agree that it's far from the ideal. But these same people seem to concentrate more on unthinkingly boycotting these places and the people involved with them whilst not offering any alternative workable solution other than a pie-in-the-sky fantasy of an environment that is just not there anymore. It's good to dream but sometimes you have to face the realities. I'm not any type of environmentalist or animal activist, and I don't claim to be, as I'm not currently doing anything tangible towards solving these issues. But I'm of the firm belief that unless you are doing something tangible and pro-active about the situation you shouldn't go around unthinkingly throwing dreams, ideals and opinions about as solutions. If you're in a position where you cannot do anything tangible to help change the world, as most of us are, it's better to focus on educating yourself on the situation and spending time discussing workable solutions or realistic goals to work towards with other people who feel the same way.

    Lastly, I hate that these issues seem to have yet again become subject and secondary to the humans involved. Using the label of activist or animal lover to try and look better than the next person seems to be a more common occurrence than anyone actually doing anything. I know for people who really care the reward is seeing an animal in a good loving environment and not the gratification they get from other people saying what a good job they are doing or how right they are.

    1. I absolutely agree with your viewpoints, Caitlin. Thank you for contributing, and please carry on sharing your opinions. I think they are really valuable and constructive to this discussion!

  8. I really enjoyed this post. I too have strong feelings about animal cruelty in all forms. In South Africa we are dealing with the daily poaching of our magnificent rhinos for their horns. We are losing the war against the poachers who lay their lives on the line daily to try and save the few that are left. Our elephant population is being decimated. Now our lions are being hunted for their bones which are viewed as having healing powers.Our monkeys have run of space to roam a shave our baboons too. Our vultures are on the verge of dying out as they eat carcasses which farmers have poisoned. We have beautiful oceans here but again our dolphins, sharks etc are under threat. I can't even talk about the stray dogs that are murdered daily: or should i say 'put down' .
    I think we need to be careful about places that we think are cruel (like zoos and circuses and many aquariums), particularly ones now in countries in war zones and places that are trying to save, rescue, rehabilitate, educate. I am not fooled by the rhinos in Vietnam zoos being there for educational purposes.
    People who have a passion for saving animals have strong feelings and often disagree on how to do it so I think we need to research and read carefully about places before we simply right it off.

    1. The wildlife situation in South Africa make me sad and proud in turns. We are very advanced in some aspects, yet still face daily struggles against despicable hunting and poaching - I don't think we are losing the war just yet though! I have hope! Our park and game rangers are ferocious and determined not to lose this battle - we will see what the future holds though (I just hope it is one that still has rhinos in it.)

      And thanks for having an open mind about this post! I know when you visit you will see for yourself the pros and cons of a place like Tiger Kingdom. It's no Kruger Park but this is Thailand! There are many, many obstacles to overcome, and the country has a long way to go before in terms of rectification of the way they handle their precious wildlife - I believe fixing Tiger Kingdom will be near the bottom of the list, as there are so many more drastic issues to deal with before we can even get there, and in the meantime, tame tigers in pens should be the least of their concerns!!

  9. I like this adrian. because you are different to tourists who think they know everything about Thailand and Thai people! but this is true what you said about zoos, we cannot change it for a long time but now we can keep our animals alive.

  10. I just got accidentally to your blog today and really enjoying reading your posts :)
    I'm always glad to see people with concern about animals/environment - unfortunately on that matter majority of human beings are selfish bastards, caring only about 'here and now'.
    Anyway, coming back to places like Tiger Kingdom. I strongly disagree with Vanessa Neophytou point of view. As it was mentioned before, we are the ones to blame for animals to be at the edge of their extinction, so we should be the ones to prevent it. However, it cannot really work this way that we just close them, and that's it. And to me Tiger Kingdom looks like pure business: breeding, earning money on visits, then selling (hopefully zoos, not black market).
    My opinion? (definitely doable, just a good will needed)
    Tiger Kingdom still exists, to raise awareness and funds for projects. Part of the tigers might be sell to zoos to make money for projects. BUT, the main goal of such place should be to breed, prepare for wild life (as little people interactions as possible) then let free and monitor animals. It's nothing new, projects like that exists and are doing lots of good for the nature!
    Obviously it requires help from government, for example with protecting them in natural environment, so your work is not in vain.

    I'm looking forward for my trip in December, I'll keep on reading your blog, as I find it really interesting :)

    Take care


  11. Oh! One more thing. I'm 100% against cramped cages, chained animals, general cruelty in zoos, or places like Tiger Kingdom. But as long as they are treated well, have space for playing, 'nature-like' environment, animals don't feel as bad as many people think. They have to understand, that those animals were born and brought up there, they are used to it, they kind of don't know it could be better - as cruel as it sounds, it's true. Unless animal would be caught from wild and closed, that's totally different.
    All in all, decent environment + good care + GOOD PURPOSE (as mentioned in my previous post) = I'm able to accept some places with closed animals. I'm saying that as eco-freak.
    Just imagine tribes still leaving in the jungles. They don't travel, no electricity, no internet... pretty much nothing, except what nature gave them. Do you think they are sad and lonely due to lacking formerly mentioned goods? No, they are perfectly happy! Obviously if you place a person from 'civilized' world, he/she would probably commit suicide caused by deep depression ;-) Maybe some will find this as a silly example, but it reflects well my point about animals


  12. Radek, I agree - people are selfish bastards!
    I really like this post. Too many are so vague/misinformed or even worse they don't even share any knowldge at all, it's so difficult for people to know what's really going on. Just like elephant camps everyone goes to these places without a care for what they might be supporting. It makes me angry but there's nothing i can do to change everyone's views except try and help them learn like you have done here, well done again
    I really can see you have a big heart for animals Adrian, but to me a tiger in a cage makes my skin crawl. We keep big ocean animals in tanks too and also our meat comes from tiny cages too, that one is probably the worst. But you are right that everybody is blind to these issues and choose what to be an activist about, what is convenient for them without seeing that all animals must be respected not just the ones they think are pretty. Frankly I think everybody is full of shit but then I might be a cynical bastard!! Anyway great job Adrian keep it up, and good convo, you've got me intrested to see what other people say, I'll be checking back for more.

  13. Hi Adrian

    This is an interesting post! My wife and I went to Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks ago and although it was a bit fun to play with the tigers we decided that we didn't enjoy the experience overall. We didn't get a good feeling from the place and witnessed staff hitting the tigers on the nose with a stick. Not too hard, but enough to scare it.

    Personally, we wouldn't recommend it however we encourage people to have their own opinions. Also you make a good point that it's probably better to live there than possibly die from poachers.