tiger selfie

Exposing the cruelty behind tiger selfies


World Animal Protection urges Indian tourists not to support the cruel tiger tourism industry

In the wake of the scandal and closure of Thailand’s Tiger Temple, World Animal Protection is exposing the true scale of abuse that captive tigers are enduring at the hands of Thailand’s tiger tourism industry.

Launched ahead of the International Tiger Day on 29 July, the report ‘Tiger selfies exposed: a portrait of Thailand’s tiger entertainment industry’ highlights the hidden cruelty and suffering in tiger entertainment venues across Thailand.

With more than one million Indian tourists visiting Thailand every year, and wildlife entertainment venues remaining a popular destination for them: the people of India can make a significant difference for tigers, by not supporting the cruel industry.

The report reveals a rapidly expanding industry, with a third more captive tigers (33%) in Thailand in the past five years. At the time of our investigations, there were 830 tigers in captivity at entertainment venues in Thailand, compared to the 623 when we first researched this issue in 2010. The growing numbers of tigers indicates ‘speed-breeding’ of captive tigers without any conservation benefits and means more tigers are born into suffering. 

The main welfare concerns witnessed by the investigators at these tourist venues were:

  • Tiger cubs who are separated from their mothers, two to three weeks after they are born
  • Young cubs being presented to tourists, constantly viewed and mishandled hundreds of times a day, which can lead to stress and injury
  • Tigers being punished using pain and fear in order to stop aggressive unwanted behavior.
  • Most tigers were housed in small concrete cages or barren enclosures with limited access to fresh water.
  • One in ten (12%) of the tigers we observed showed behavioral problems; such as repetitive pacing, biting their tales. These behaviors most commonly occur when animals feel they cannot cope with stressful environments or situations.

Of the 17 tiger entertainment venues investigated in Thailand, Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Pattaya has the highest number of tigers in captivity. It’s also the venue where we observed the poorest animal welfare conditions – with at least one tiger so thin their hips and ribs were visible.

Wild animals do not belong in tourist entertainment, and the recent incident of a tiger mauling a woman to death at Beijing’s Badaling wildlife park in China, is yet another grim reminder that tigers are wild animals, that should only be in the wild. World Animal Protection is calling on the people of India to be responsible tourists, and not visit tiger entertainment venues or take tiger selfies. Whether travelling abroad or in India, we urge people to treat India’s national animal with respect and compassion.

Gajender K Sharma, India Country Director at World Animal Protection says:

“In the run-up to the International Tiger Day this year, we are urging India tourists to think about the welfare of tigers, and we’re calling on the travel industry to stop promoting and profiting from tiger cruelty. The Global Tiger Forum, an inter-governmental international organization for the conservation of tigers in the wild, this week endorsed our work to protect tigers, helping us to move forward to keep wild animals in the wild. The message is simple, if you can get up close, hug or have a selfie with a tiger, chances are the tiger is suffering, so don’t do it. Take action to be your better selfie.”

The message is simple, if you can get up close, hug or have a selfie with a tiger, chances are the tiger is suffering, so don’t do it. Take action to be your better selfie

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