Fifteen Minutes with a Tiger
Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand features tame tigers that have been hand reared. However, some of the posters advertising the price for a chance to visit with the tigers state, “insurance included.”
Visitors can choose among small (kittens), medium and large tigers to visit. We chose the large, which were two 18-month old males. Our package did NOT include insurance.
Tigers do not purr. But these kitties were lazy and enjoying an afternoon nap on a very hot day — like every other day in Thailand — at least 100 degrees and the same humidity. Several trainers entered the large cage with my travel companions and me. The trainers had only a small stick — like a police night stick. The tigers are not drugged and are accustomed to being with people. They are trained not to bite humans using this stick with a tap on their nose — as is used in dog training. Although electric shock, whips, chains, declawing, drugging and food deprivation/reward are methods sometimes used on tigers elsewhere, Tiger Kingdom believes the method of “nose tapping” is the only method that reduces harm to the tigers and remains a successful way of preventing human and tiger injury. I did not have time to investigate the validity of this claim and hope it is true.
The price of our visit — $10 for 15 minutes with the tiger — helps raise money to support the Ubon Zoo in Ubonrachatani and to insure the continuation of the endangered Indo-Chinese (or Corbett’s) tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), a subspecies of tiger found in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. There are only about 120 wild Indo-Chinese tigers left in Thailand, mostly in the northeast. Adult male tigers weigh about 400 pounds and measure 9 feet in length. Females weigh about 250 pounds and measure about 8 feet. Entering a tiger’s cage, touching, patting, and even listening to the beating hearts of these magnificent cats is the experience of a lifetime.