Tiger Tourism in Thailand; Distressing For the Tigers and Dangerous For Tourists

The Times of Israel has reported (22nd August) that a 2-year-old Israeli boy has been operated on at a Ko Samui local hospital after sustaining serious wounds to the face during family trip to the island.

The report states that the Israeli toddler was in “stable” condition after being mauled in the face by a tiger on the Thai island of Ko Samui on Thursday.

The attack took place during a visit by the boy’s vacationing family to a local animal park, after the tiger briefly escaped its handler.

Witnesses said the handlers kicked the tiger in the head to pull it off the 2-year-old, who was rushed to a local hospital with what Hebrew media reports called “serious” wounds to his face. His grandfather, who witnessed the attack, fainted at the scene.

Doctors said the boy’s condition was now stable and his life was not in danger.  Israel’s consul in Bangkok, Etty Mizrachi, was in close touch with the family, the Foreign Ministry said.

The toddler is expected to be flown to Israel in the coming days, according to a travel insurance company working with the family.

In response to the published article commentators voiced their concerns about “animal tourism” in Thailand.

“It’s time to ban the animal tourism industry once and for all!  It’s massively abusive to animals, and dangerous to visitors. There are so many people fighting for the end of the disgusting tiger parks in Thailand. Let’s make them disappear!”

Apart from the distress that wild animals suffer with the unnatural aspects of their training and living conditions, there is a history of incidents when tourists get up close and ‘too personal’ with potentially dangerous animals.

In 2014 an Australian man stepped inside a cage in a Phuket animal park to pet a tiger.  There was a rapid and unexpected attack during which the park attendants had to drag the victim to safety.  The man sustained injuries to his stomach and legs and was later admitted to a Phuket hospital.

In 2013 a 19-year old British student was left scarred for life after a tiger knocked her to the ground and bit through her thigh at the Tiger Temple park in the Kanchanaburi district.

In 2011 a Thai woman suffered severe head and arm injuries after she was mauled by a tiger at the Million Year Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm located in East Pattaya.

While in 2009, a woman from New Zealand was left hospitalised for weeks after touching a tiger’s head at the Khumsu Chiang Mai Tiger Centre, in the north of Thailand.

Animal welfare advocates are unanimous in condemning ‘attractions’ that feature wild animals being forced to endure distressing conditions and training regimes, whether they be tigers, elephants, monkeys or any other creature. 

In this case the unfortunate victim was taken into an unsafe environment and suffered the consequences of his family’s decision to visit the ‘animal show.’ 

The message is that animal tourism has no place in the future of tourism; just don’t go!