PHUKET: Tiger Kingdom has suffered a mauling by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the aftermath of an attack on Australian tourist Paul Goudie at the Phuket animal park.
The dangers of entering a cage of tigers remain obvious and a spokesperson for Tiger Kingdom told Phuketwan yesterday that all necessary information was supplied to tourists before entry.
''At every gate, tourists are told about tiger behavior and how tourists should behave,'' the spokesperson said. ''This was an accident.''
Paul Goudie, a 49-year-old truck driver from Werribee, near Melbourne, certainly placed no blame on the tiger or handlers at Tiger Kingdom after the mauling on Tuesday.
The staff were ''absolutely fantastic,'' he said. Phuketwan broke the story on Wednesday and was first soon after with an exclusive interview with Mr Goudie.
The one remaining concern we have is whether Tiger Kingdom would have publicly revealed the mauling if Phuketwan hadn't reported what happened.
Tiger Kingdom initially declined to respond to Phuketwan questions on Wednesday and a staffer actively tried to prevent reporters interviewing Mr Goudie in a Phuket hospital later that day, despite Mr Goudie's willingness to make his story public.
At the time he was awaiting surgery at a Phuket hospital on bite wounds to a leg and his stomach. He expects to make a full recovery.
Other media on Phuket also wanted to report the story but were herded away when the opportunity arose to speak to Mr Goudie in an apparent attempt to keep the incident quiet and the ripples from it as calm as possible.
PETA meanwhile has latched onto the treatment of tigers in captivity and emotively attempted to score points from the incident.
A major question is just where tigers can be expected to survive in the wild now that their natural environment has been almost completely destroyed.
PETA also assumes that the big cats in captivity are not happy, which is something nobody can say with certainty.
Whether the tigers should be on display for private profit or kept in a government-sanctioned facility is another issue. The Tiger Kingdom creatures are well-fed and appear to be kept in perfect health.
The reason for the attack could be that the tiger thought the handlers were in danger when Mr Goudie, who has pins in an ankle, needed help standing up, or as Mr Goudie suggested, the tiger could smell a touch of elephant from a trek he made before visiting Tiger Kingdom.
Tiger Kingdom has temporarily closed the big cat cage, which holds five adult tigers, but the attraction remains open so tourists can visit cats in two other enclosures, the smaller and smallest cats.
The tiger tourist park on Phuket has been an instant success since opening last year. The unusual attack - we believe it's unusual because no attacks have been previously reported - is not likely to stop visitor arrivals.
What Phuketwan believes Tiger Kingdom needs to clarify is whether the mauling of Mr Goudie is the first incident of its kind and what will change at the attraction to make sure there are no more attacks.
The media does not need to be fed in captivity the way the tigers are fed chickens. Simply stating the truth openly will do.
Tourists who will come to see and pet the tigers deserve to be treated honestly in response to the faith that Mr Goudie obviously had - and still has - in Tiger Kingdom.
A decision clearly needs to be made about the fate of the tigers in the Big Cat enclosure. If public access resumes, what measures will be put in place to ensure the improved safety of visitors?
The next time Phuketwan calls asking to interview a senior manager at Tiger Kingdom will reveal whether the facility has adopted a more open approach.
PETA's statement is published below with the rider that most of what's said remains emotive, exaggerated and, in some aspects, unproven:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
An Australian man has been seriously injured by a male tiger at Tiger Kingdom in Phuket. And of course this is just the latest in a long list of such incidents around the world.
Tiger Kingdom - which has long been the subject of intense scrutiny for its treatment of the animals imprisoned within its walls - gives people the warped idea that these animals are little more than cuddly kitties who can be used and abused for our entertainment.
But captivity does not extinguish all the genetic drives that tigers are meant to follow. Attacks by captive big cats on people - which occur with staggering regularity - illustrate the profound level of stress, anxiety and agitation these animals experience every day of their lives.
Captivity is a living hell for them. In captivity, they cannot engage in any of the activities that give their lives meaning. No animal can thrive in such an artificial and stressful environment.
PETA hopes that this incident will help educate more tourists about the plight of tigers and other animals used for ''entertainment'' and make them think twice before visiting shows and facilities that use exotic animals.