Whilst I think it is fantastic that people have a fascination, love, and passion for wildlife I am continually battered by these animal lovers having an unquenchable desire to touch, hug and kiss animals that should be left to be wild.
Every day I come across pictures such as this:
Whilst it might be an incredible experience for you - the tourist, the trainer or the keeper, what is it that makes you think that the animal wants to be in this situation?
Okay, I will openly admit that I have had my share of getting up close to wild animals:
This baboon was orphaned at a young age because a human shot it's mother. It was rescued and raised at N/an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary where it will stay for the rest of it's life - if released it would soon find it's way back to humans and as a fully grown baboon would be very dangerous. In this situation we were taking the young baboons out of their enclosure to forage and play in a wild reserve. They follow and return with the humans to their enclosure with no force. They spend around an hour a day out with people.
This is Samera, an elderly cheetah who was kept as a pet for 10 years and given a poor diet that barely kept her healthy. Eventually she was given to Na'an ku se who keep her in a large enclosure by herself with plenty of cover. However because of her constant interaction with humans throughout her life when left with no human contact she would become clearly despondent and depressed. Her contact with humans is for a maximum of thirty minutes a day - the rest of the time she can enjoy her retirement in peace.
I enjoyed the experience - to be able to get up close to these animals, I will admit, is incredible. But I enjoyed far more seeing animals out in the wild. To go out and find animals living a natural life... That is something else.
This post has been triggered by an article I read this morning:
STUDENT, 19, MAULED BY 400lb TIGER AT POPULAR TOURIST ATTRACTION
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2407513/Student-19-mauled-400lb-tiger-Thailand-popular-tourist-attraction.html#ixzz2dd6t4uez
Isabella Brennan visited Tiger Temple Tours in Thailand where she was allowed to pet tigers in an enclosure (which were tethered and chained) before moving on to washing them.
The tigers have supposedly been raised from birth by Buddhist monks and therefore are completely tame. But anyone who knows anything about wild carnivores know that none can be tamed completely. Moments after this photograph was taken Isabella was attacked by another tiger who sunk its teeth into her thigh. She was rescued when keepers intervened and her sister dragged her away. Eight weeks on and she is still unable to walk unaided, and will now be scarred for life. She is lucky to be alive.
It is hugely questionable about the welfare of these animals - whilst they may look healthy and well fed there are many rumours that the animals are drugged to ensure they cannot attack humans. For hours a day they are paraded around, stroked, teased and accosted by people. I even found this photograph on their website:
The problem is that tourists are either too blind-sighted to see what is happening, or too bloody selfish to care. See some of the reviews I have found:
"Leave your MORALS at the gate. This is truly an unforgettable experience . Wheather it's right or wrong this is Thailand , too be able to have the opportunity with these Tigers we will never forget."
"Did the V.I.P tour with tour with tong. Our guide was fantastic as she had been on our Bangkok tour but I am in two minds about the tiger temple. I am sure the tigers are big enough to look after themselves but one of the keepers kicked a tiger in the head to try get a toy back off it. Not impressed. The tigers look healthy and I'm sure they are reasonably well looked after."
"The areal is quiet big...the tigers seemed careless and were on very short chain accompanied by monks. We took very quickly few photos...and everything passed so fast that I almost didn't realize I was next to tigers.... It´s difficult to say if the animals are treated well or not, they looked healthy but on another hand sad. The necessity to have tiger on short chains is understandable for a short time due to safety of people... The attitude of people working there is week point of this place!!!"
The place is not a conservation site. The tigers are not there for their welfare but only as a money-making tourist attraction. They are bred (and possibly taken from the wild as small cubs) and raised by people who only care to make a quick buck. Another case of human selfishness that makes me ashamed to be one of my species.
So many people who claim to be animal lovers will pay for this experience, perfectly aware that it is not right.
Take a look at this video and tell me if you think this is right?! These animals look exhausted to me. And take note of the woman pushing the tigers head under the water.
Yes it's cool to get close to wild animals, but my god is it wrong. Animals have a right to live in the wild, and not be some money making tourist attraction that spends it's life on a chain. Yes you might be an animal lover, but love them from a distance, enjoy their beauty and the knowledge that they are truly wild.
Have I changed your mind on any issues today? Please comment and share and let the world know we want our wildlife to remain wild.