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Premkamon Ketsara braves the big cats at Phuket's Tiger Kingdom today

Phuket Tiger Kingdom With a Scaredy Cat

Thursday, July 11, 2013
PHUKET: Tiger Kingdom opened on Phuket with a roar today, but most of that roar actually came from the go-karting track next door.

As animal lovers can tell you, there are many kinds of cats. These include big cats, wild cats and scaredy cats.

There were 19 striped big cats and wild cats at Phuket's Tiger Kingdom today plus at least one scaredy cat.

The young generation, raised on Disney movies where the animals all talk and smile sweetly, know no fear and boldly enter the cages at Tiger Kingdom to play with the big cats.

Things were different years ago. Black and white Tarzan movies, where the animals had nothing to say and the humans mostly grunted, became this intrepid reporter's guide to life among wild cats.

As everybody at the local cinema quickly came to understand, the only way you could prevent a tiger from attacking was to wear a mask on the back of your head. That way, the tiger couldn't tell if you had your back turned.

Following this week's news item about the men kept up a tree for five days by wild tigers in the Indonesian jungle, there was no way I was prepared to enter a cage at Tiger Kingdom without a mask, a long, sharp spear, and Tarzan.

These items could not be provided so Disney generation reporter Premkamon Ketsara was sent in instead, as a kind of appetiser.

Even from the other side of the cage, there were several times when tigers fixed me with their gaze. I knew what they were thinking. They knew what they were thinking. Lunch.

There was no way I was prepared to step inside. No way.

Putting to one side all desires to avoid risks, Tiger Kingdom shapes up as a promising addition to Phuket's tourist attractions. The staff are friendly, and so are the tigers.

Those people who were bold enough to go in with the big cats all emerged unscathed. You pay your money and you take your chances.

The tigers are all young animals and the entrance fee varies depending on whether visitors want to share a cage with very large, large or medium-sized cats.

Feeding time comes early and late, and the chickens are stripped of skin to keep the tigers lean and healthy.

It's possible to organise a wedding or a banquet among the striped cats, and on today's opening the theme park looks clean and efficiently run.

Tiger Kingdom, daily 9am-6pm, uphill from the Caltex intersection, Kathu. 076 323311-2. Buffet lunch 550/300 baht. Entrance smallest tigers 1000 baht, small tigers 900 baht, medium/big tigers 800 baht.

Comments

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Not happy just looking at the photos it appears the cats have had their claws removed. How insecure this must make them. These cats have been killers for millions of years so this is not natural or safe. Zoos all over the world have deaths from tigers just recently in the UK and they do not even let customers go in with the tigers. I don't know any developed country that does, clearly probably due to law but backed up by the risk. Is this about the tiger's happiness or making money, sadly more the latter I think. Tigers should be left in their natural habitat or in large spaces where they can live a normal life.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 11, 2013 21:02

Editor Comment:

There is a photo in the album you must have overlooked, feisty farang, in your haste to impose your prepackaged opinion. The tiger appears to have claws. Trimmed, perhaps, but hardly removed. Please tell us why you assume that the recent tiger death in the UK proves anything except perhaps that Thais, where tigers are native creatures, know and understand tigers better. I am not making a case for keeping wild animals in captivity, merely pointing out the flaws in your guesswork.

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Why are you against the slow loris and iguana touts, yet, tout this travesty of a tourist attraction?

Posted by sir burr on July 11, 2013 21:29

Editor Comment:

The tiger theme park is legal while the touts' treatment of slow lorises and iguanas is not. The law is what distinguishes whether humans' treatment of other creatures is acceptable. We don't make assumptions, for example, that all pet dogs should be left untrained or that all horses should be wild and free. If you haven't been to the tiger park - we didn't spot you on opening day - by what logic do you claim that it's a ''travesty''? Have you been trained to assume it is?
And, just so all is plain, are there other animals that you eat? Is there any ''travesty'' involved in their treatment?

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Oh Wonderful, a fantastically natural attraction to visit.
If I do get reborn, I hope it is not as a caged animal in Thailand.
Sick doesn't really come close.

Posted by peter on July 11, 2013 21:31

Editor Comment:

Ah well, another wild opinion on the loose with fangs but no intelligence behind them.

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I wonder what the tigers think of us!? Also, does any of the fee go into helping protect these most beautiful of animals? I'm generally not a fan of zoo's unless part of the cost goes towards something more constructive like actual conservation and research. Was there much in the way of education about the tigers and other wild cats at the attraction?

Posted by Matt on July 11, 2013 22:07

Editor Comment:

The animals appeared to be well cared for and I saw nothing to trigger alarm. I have no idea whether any of the money goes to protecting tigers in the wild, but i suspect it would be noted if that was the case. There is something to be said for encouraging awareness of the beauty of tigers and all wild animals . . . but this is clearly a business. I suspect Western views are well in advance of Asian views, but that should change with awareness. There are only tigers at Tiger Kingdom.

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The sad fact is that there are more tigers in captivity than left in the wild and given that Official figures show more than half of Indonesia's rainforest, the third-largest swath in the world, has been felled in a few years and permission has been granted to convert up to 70% of what remains into palm or acacia plantations - what is left for the tigers ??

Posted by Sebastian on July 11, 2013 22:24

Editor Comment:

That's part of the reason why it's difficult to criticise Tiger Kingdom. The knee-jerk reaction against well-run legal theme parks fails to take account of the lack of proper government funding for worthy wildlife causes. If it was non-profit, that would be great. But it's not. The owners are probably sympathetic to tigers in the wild but I don't know whether that translates into a financial commitment.

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Ed: "The law is what distinguishes whether humans' treatment of other creatures is acceptable."

The law in Canada allows seal hunters to club little baby fuzzy seals to death.

The law in Japan allows "scientists" to massacre dozens of whales every year.

Thnak goodness there are laws to make the treatment of these creatures 'acceptable'.

Posted by Robert on July 11, 2013 22:42

Editor Comment:

The treatment of seals and whales is no different to the treatment of pigs, cows and sheep and all manner of other animals that humans eat. Only the manner of death varies. if you don't eat meat, you have some right to differentiate between the manner of death of different kinds of animals. If you do eat meat, whether it be horse (without knowing) or sharks fin or kangaroo or dog or whatever, to me you have no right to criticise other meat eaters. Laws vary from country to country, according to tradition and taste. I'd resist the emotional element of particularly bad deaths. Eating meat is never going to be easy if you know how the animals are killed.
This is going some distance from tigers being well cared for in a theme park.

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What are those wires on the tree in he main photo - are they electric to stop the tiger climbing the tree ?? This is a sad day for the tigers and a sad day for Phuket. Tigers belong in the jungle not in a prison

Posted by Julie on July 11, 2013 22:48

Editor Comment:

To make a case for whatever it is you want to say, Julie, you really should go to see for yourself before making a judgement. Shooting from the lip simply shows a lack of research on your part. Emotional outcries add nothing.

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Disgusting.

Posted by Gee on July 11, 2013 22:54

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Ed are you really trying to tell me that in your opinion Thailand knows more than any other developed country none of which allow guests into their enclosure. You are delusional. Most of those reading here will know the real reason.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 11, 2013 22:59

Editor Comment:

What I am saying, FF, is that unless you have specific knowledge of why the person was killed in the UK, and why more people are not killed in tiger enclosures in Thailand, then your argument that ''developed'' countries always know best is pure conjecture. You're a cultural screwball.

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Well that changes everything Editor. I had no idea that the Japanese were officially hunting whales for meat. According to Japan's Fisheries Ministry, they are hunted for research purposes. The same goes for the seals. Officially they are hunted for their furs - not their meat. As for my using these examples, it was you that made a broad sweeping statement: "The law is what distinguishes whether humans' treatment of other creatures is acceptable." I was responding to this statement and I said absolutely nothing about meat eaters. In my opinion, the "law" does not make something necessarily acceptable; legal, yes, but acceptability is a matter of personal interpretation - not the imposed view of a news editor.

Posted by Robert on July 11, 2013 23:14

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you've missed the long-running saga behind the whale hunting - the fact that the meat is packaged and onsold as food. I can't speak for seals and you may be right about the fur but my point is, why be so influenced by emotion? Pigs and cows and horses don't die easily.either. It seems to me, Robert, that you are the one imposing your view that news editors impose their views. How shallow, empty and emotional of you. Do you eat meat? I suspect you are a simple-minded selective consumer.
Incidentally, what i wrote was: ''Laws vary from country to country, according to tradition and taste.''

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When Phuket opened to tourism they shot them out,they were plentiful in the 50s as I understand it on Phuket & had there share of attacks on villagers the interesting line is you pay your money you take your chances just like a snorkling tour the tiger is the safer bet.

Posted by slickmelb on July 11, 2013 23:51

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Are laws always right. Speak to some ladies in the strict Muslim countries where they are not even allowed an education. You do like the sound of your own voice you speak such rubbish sometimes.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 12, 2013 00:05

Editor Comment:

Laws are not always right but perhaps the best guide we have. On the other hand, making judgements without a tour of inspection seems only for the foolish.

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I have not been to the park and don't intend to either, so I can't offer any educated opinions on this particular operation.

All I can say is that I'm against any type of use of wild animals for profit.

Tigers being solitary and territorial in the wild, offering a natural habitat for them in captivity is virtually impossible.

If people want to see wild animals, I'd prefer they travel to where those roam free and join an ecologically aware tour operator to observe them.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 12, 2013 00:09

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Yeah, my fellow farang... Complain all you want, I keep my dogs claws trimmed. This needs to be done on all tame animals with claws... I fully agree with the editor above, and will visit and enjoy the tiger kingdom together with my spouse on my next visit, in January.

Posted by Swede from Malmo on July 12, 2013 01:18

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Ed, because we eat pigs and sheep, by your logic, we can slaughter any animal on the planet.

Posted by sir burr on July 12, 2013 07:48

Editor Comment:

''We'' do, don't ''we''?

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Having (regrettably) been along to the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai its very obvious the animals the visitors are allowed in with are drugged to remain docile..

Barely conscious was the impression I had.

Posted by LivinLOS on July 12, 2013 08:10

Editor Comment:

Frisky as can be on Phuket yesterday, and the pamphlet says ''Our Tigers are NOT DRUGGED nor Tranquilized.'' In another section it adds: ''Cats are cats and they sleep up to 18 hours a day, just like kitty at home. Please do not assume our cats are drugged.'' There's that word again, ''assume.''

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Tigers need a lot of space filled with prey, not human preferred. Anyone has a backyard free?
As I do not like this kind of menagerie for this wild cats, I know of a lot of worse stuff done to tigers in Asia. Or animals.
If fish could cry, nobody could sleep at night near the shores cause of all the pain, fear and agony when pulled out of the water. But the fresh fish is yammy on Phuket.
So yes a lot of hypo crazy to get worked up over this petting tiger zoo. What happens to the tiger, when they are big? They are way to many young tigers to feed them, when they are old. But still better then hunting down the very last one of them in the wild for the Chinese market crazy needs.
They have a carefree life until being harvested like cows or poultry. Yeah, not nice, but cry next time you visit Tesco meat bar instead of watering the mouth.

Posted by Lena on July 12, 2013 08:47

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The best thing about reading Phuket Wan here in San Francisco is the rebutals from The Editor, sometimes correct, always funny, surprisingly honest. I wish more newspapers would follow suit. And no, I don't think Tiger Tourism is a good idea, like that tiger temple near Kanchi

Posted by Carl Parkes on July 12, 2013 09:21

Editor Comment:

How could I rebut you after that?
It's probably wise to distinguish between good care and bad care. The tigers we saw yesterday are pampered and in excellent shape. With wilderness in decline everywhere, more wild creatures are destined for captivity.

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i heard thai price is 50% cheaper then falang price!!, and the weather is way to hot for tiger in phuket, thats why we dont have many tigers in the south..

Posted by loreen on July 12, 2013 09:32

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Ed you say "You're a cultural screwball" you create some good journalism but don't be rude to your readers so much, do you have an inferiority complex that you cannot help yourself but to be rude to so many readers?

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 12, 2013 09:55

Editor Comment:

Your record speaks for itself, FF. You think the developed world holds the answer to everything. You can't see that on some issues, the Thais have it right. To me, that makes you a cultural screwball. (dictionary: eccentric or whimsically eccentric person; a nut.) No offence intended, but the answer to the problem is for you to stop making assumptions based on a bias that is often wrong.

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Well I hope they are looked after and not like the tigers in the zoo! I hope they are fed properly and not skinny in 6 months time..... Don't like the sound of this place already

Posted by Anonymous on July 12, 2013 10:51

Editor Comment:

Staff who skin the chicken before feeding the tigers would seem to have the health of the tigers at heart. We may have to wait until Disney makes a movie of it to learn what the tigers think.

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As in each age of the planet the top predators die out and new ones take their place. Now man is the top predator on the planet. By the looks of it the meek of the earth are going to be without a lot of grizzly deaths as man makes room for them to die of other things beside attack. The only place left for these animals will be in man made places, what we need if we are going to keep these out of date predators around is a much better watch on who is keeping them.

Posted by Tim on July 12, 2013 11:06

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Fantastic commentary from the editor! Brilliant work. The whole thing about Thailand/Phuket and this Tiger Park, is that it is their culture. It's what intersts people to visit another country. Tis a very boring world if everyone's the same. Love and embrace this. It seems everything has been done correctly, and no different to any other zoo in care, which all major cities in the world have zoos. Keep up the good work Ed! See you Phuket in 9 days!

Posted by Phuket Lover on July 12, 2013 11:07

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I've never seen so many rebutals from Ed on one subject!
Methinks you are outnumbered.
The sad fact is that this "attraction" will, more than likely, be a huge success, driven by demand from the low end tourists from newly traveling countries, who know no better.

Posted by Peter on July 12, 2013 11:21

Editor Comment:

Perhaps you missed the lively debate about circumcision.
The only point I am trying to make is that opinions based on assumptions and emotions are often flawed. Numbers in support of a particular viewpoint are almost always irrelevant.

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Ed, are you really telling your readers that millions of years of evolution are not going to make one of these tigers attack someone? It is not the Tiger's fault, very sad, you and I can be fed but it does not make us happy. I would think their main stimulation is hunting. Also tigers are solitary animals so they must feel very over crowded and therefore more likely to be stressed, especially the males. What is the number of males/females, the dominant male maybe will stress the less dominant male...it the wild they would put distance between them. There is so much wrong with this if you place the tigers life as the subject.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 12, 2013 12:36

Editor Comment:

These creatures are born and raised in captivity, not stolen from the wild. Your assumptions about all tigers fitting your theories are just plain wrong, as their docile behavior in Thailand's tiger parks shows You are clearly persevering with arguments that are based on misinformation.

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Before making a decision to enter the cage or not, one might try a google search regarding an alleged incident at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai that happened a few years ago. A New Zealand woman was reported to have suffered serious injuries after being mauled while visiting the cage with her family, and the ensuing drama in getting to hospital on their own only left the family further traumatized.

Posted by Treelover on July 12, 2013 13:58

Editor Comment:

Yes, but if you're a tourist on a motorcycle, the danger is much greater outside the cage. You're much safer in there.

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Ed, is there any independent authority that can confirm these tigers have not been given drugs. Hold on I forgot where I was, Thailand. Maybe they should export them to the West if they are so cute and cudly. Ed I think you are playing with me so this is my last comment. In your and my country I am sure there is an independent body plus people's safety is given a higher priority due to liability issues and common sense. Bred in captivity does not take millions of years of hunting and male dominance and the actions necessary to complete such away from a tiger in one, two of fifty generations. Don't make any comment on this please I am getting too stressed.

Posted by Fiesty Farang on July 12, 2013 14:03

Editor Comment:

Sorry to stress you Feisty, but are you feisty or not? The tigers are all juveniles. Many of the instincts - and the power to do serious damage - don't kick in until they reach adulthood. The training is so complete there is no need for drugs. The tigers I saw yesterday were full of life.

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We were the first visitors to ever go into Tiger Kingdom Phuket on its 1st opening day, it was amazing !! Every tiger look extremely well cared for, in amazing condition and so alert . They all had claws but were trimmed , we went in with the small,medium and also large tigers.There is a risk involved, as they are still a wild, un-drugged animal, but if you don't want the risk simply don't go in with them !.The handlers were fantastic in looking out for our safety and I never saw any animal mistreated while I was there, in fact I saw the tigers being stimulated and extremely alert. I can only say that the four of us including our two children had an experience with the tigers that day that we will never forget .

Posted by Jason & Janelle on July 12, 2013 18:25

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There are other places that you can go in cages with these tigers. In Dream World on the Gold Coast.

Posted by Phill on July 12, 2013 19:41

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If their claws have been trimmed, I guess that goes a long way to revealing how docile they must be. That said, there's no way you'd get me in a cage with a fully grown adult male.

Posted by agogohome on July 28, 2013 09:04

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Hi there, I have recently visited Tiger Kingdom and I have to say that I was very happy :) I have observed that all the tigers there were males. Why so? Are females more aggressive? Thank you for your answer. Nina

Posted by Nina on March 14, 2014 04:37

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I read all the comments. I agree with both sides.Tigsr are best in the wild and not in cages. But I must also say that the tigers in Phuket tiger kingdom, Pattaya Sri Racha zoo as well as in Nong Nooch Pattaya are well cared for. Their cages are neat , they are healthy and trust me their claws and teeth are not trimmed or removed. But then a tiger is much more majestic in the wild than in a cage. I have had the opportunity of 2-3 photo ops with tigers at Pattaya and have happily taken pics posing with them. Trust me I was scared and I had more than my heart in my mouth each time and I couldnt wait to get out from the proximity as soon as the pic was taken. Why did I do it?? How many can say they have touched a tiger?? How many have a picture with a tiger?? It is something i am proud of having touched a tiger and felt its smooth furry skin and seen it at arm's length. Saying all that I know it is an animal and needs only the slightest provocation and one should be careful near any animal ...even a pet cat can bite or scratch if moody. All animals are unpredictable and we should respect that basic nature.

Posted by Surendran on October 29, 2014 13:31

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People need to understand that the tigers at Tiger Kingdom are as tame as a Tiger can be. They are born in captivity, if you would let them out in the jungle they would starve to death. Tigers in Zoos are kept as "wild" as possible, with minimum human contact and so they are a very poor example to compare to the tigers at the Tiger Kingdom.

Posted by christian on October 29, 2014 18:45


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