By now you probably already know that your next holiday will be to Thailand, you know that you want to get up close to the big cats which Asia is famous for, and you might have heard that Tiger Kingdom is the safest and most ethical place to do so. But before you take the plunge and hand over your hard-earned cash in exchange for what promises to be the most thrilling and engaging experience of your whole holiday (maybe even your life!), here are the top 10 things you absolutely must know about Tiger Kingdom before buying your tickets online.
1. Let’s start with the basics, what and where is Tiger Kingdom?
Tiger Kingdom is a group of three zoos situated in Thailand, one in Phuket and two in Chiang Mai, where visitors are offered a chance to take part in world class animal encounters and educational experiences. By far our most popular and exciting thing to do is to meet Boy and Bank, our two gentle GIANT Bengal tigers, and when we say meet, we mean literally walking into their enclosure, sitting with them, and stroking them. Under the supervision of our expert keepers of course! If the thought of being this close to two 300 kg ‘top of the food chain’ predators sounds a bit daunting then we completely understand! Maybe you would prefer to meet the cubs. Depending on the season and how busy our tigers have been (wink wink!) we will probably have a few running around, and they are simply the cutest little creatures you have ever seen! You and your own cubs can meet the youngsters and have your photo taken with them, and you will not be able to believe that something this friendly and playful can have a reputation for being a man-eating predator! Be warned though, the tiger cubs are just like kittens, they are either fast asleep, or running around all over the place like crazy cats! They have their own schedule, and they are happier when this is not disrupted, so we unfortunately cannot help it if the cubs are sleeping for the entirety of your visit. They need lots of rest if they are going to grow into the likes of Boy and Bank! Tiger Kingdom is also home to Cheetahs and you have the opportunity hear them purr in contentment and give them a big fuss as you make a new friend!
2. The Tiger Kingdom Learning Center in Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, offers the only Zookeeper Experience in Thailand!
For the more adventurous travelers among you, we offer the chance to get behind the scenes and spend the whole day with our guide who will teach you everything about what it takes to look after our magnificent tigers, cheetahs, and Dave, our big beautiful male lion. You will be involved in everything that our Keeper does, from cleaning the enclosures and day-to-day health care, to feeding the big cats and participating in their enrichment program. Our focus at the Learning Center is more directed at education, research, and conservation, rather than the close-up encounters offered at our other locations.
3. Tiger Kingdom is safe to visit and our animal’s well-being is our top priority.
Provided you follow the instructions of the keeper when you enter the animal’s enclosure, it will be safe to touch them. There are general rules that you must follow, for example, only approach tigers from behind, do not touch the face or paws, give a firm touch not a light one, no sudden movements etc. Our expert tiger keepers will guide you through your experience and make sure that both you and our animals are looked after. We have a team of on-site veterinarians who work alongside animal nutritionists and animal husbandry technicians to ensure a high standard of welfare and the good health of the animals on a day-to-day basis.
4. Our animals are never given anything to make them calm.
There are a lot of unfortunate and unfounded rumors circulating on the internet regarding drugs and our animals. It is a persistent myth which is constantly being busted, not only by visitors who witness our beautiful animals for themselves, but also by visiting vets, researchers, volunteers and most importantly by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, and the Zoo Licensing Authority, who have independently taken and tested blood samples and would not allow us to operate if there was any sign of mistreatment towards our animals.
The big cats that you can meet during your animal encounters were born and hand-raised at Tiger Kingdom (hand-raising cubs has been to proven increase survival rate and to reduce stress in zoo animals) and the daily human contact helps to create a bond between tiger and keeper and makes the animal more responsive to positive reinforcement training. Our tigers have no fear of humans and do not see us as prey, as such they do not feel any aggression towards us.
There are many reasons why we would never sedate the tigers other than when strictly necessary for medical emergencies; for example, sedation and anesthetics can be dangerous, we would not want to jeopardize the health of our tigers; a sedated animal is unpredictable, it would be too dangerous to enter an enclosure with a sedated animal; sedating such large animals is expensive, doing so would compromise the viability of the zoo. Furthermore, sedation is simply not necessary, tigers sleep for 18-20 hours a day, so the likelihood is that the tigers will be quite relaxed during your visit, especially if the weather is hot.
5. The best time to visit is early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
The most exhilarating thing about Tiger Kingdom is seeing our animals when they are wide awake and playing, and this is most likely to occur when the weather isn’t too hot. Just after opening time is great as you will beat the crowds, and the tigers will be well rested and well fed. You will see the animals explore their enclosures, play, and begin to search out the best shady spots before the midday sun hits. Come in the late afternoon if you want to see the tigers being even more active. Just before 4pm, the weather cools slightly and the tigers wake up in anticipation of their 6 o’clock mealtime, it is at this point in the day when you will most likely see spectacular play fights and lots of splashes coming from the tiger’s pool! Please note though, that due to the increased activity, it may not be possible to approach the tigers during this time. If you want to visit the cats when they are at their most relaxed, then late morning and early afternoon will be the best option for you. At this time, our tigers are almost certainly going to be dozing and will be conserving their energy whilst the temperature is at its highest.
6. Not all Thai zoos are nice places.
It is an unfortunate fact that not all zoos have their animal’s welfare at the top of their priority list. There are well known zoos in Thailand which chain their tigers so that they cannot move, and there are some which remove their tigers’ claws or even their teeth, there are even some which have dubious connections to do with the trade of illegal tiger parts and which have had animals mysteriously disappear. Tiger Kingdom is not like these zoos!