More than 16,000 people had signed a petition today demanding a distressed tiger chained by the neck for selfie-takers be released as the zoo holding it says no abuse is taking place.
Island officials gave halfhearted assurances this week that all was well at the Phuket Zoo in response to the furor unleashed over a video clip of the tiger salted the net with viral rage late last month and prompted an online petition that reached its goal of 16,000 signatures Wednesday.
Image concerns were unsurprisingly the No. 1 preoccupation rather than animal welfare.
“Officers from the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conversation [sic] … [have] inspected the zoo, given advice about how to treat animals, and cautioned the owner to do things correctly and make a good image of Phuket for tourists,” top local environment official Natawon Jumlonggard told Phuket News.
View this post on Instagram
Video and Photos by Kirsten Luce @kirstenluce | A tiger paces in circles, chained to a platform in a photo studio at the Phuket Zoo in Thailand. Tigers are often declawed and/or drugged to make them safer for interacting with tourists. Photos here are 300 Baht (or about $9). For the June 2019 issue of National Geographic, writer @natashaldaly and I traveled the world to learn about wildlife tourism and the suffering that goes on behind the scenes. Our intention is not to shame tourists who have had these encounters but to arm our readers with information that will help them identify potentially abusive situations for animals. To learn more, read the story at natgeo.com/wildlifetourism and follow @wildlife_friends_foundation, a non-profit which works on the ground to help animals in the tourism industry in Thailand.
It’s another black eye and the latest in a series of exposes calling attention to the cruel abuse Thai animals endure in the name of tourism. Last week it was footage of an emotionally distressed young elephant chained up at a zoo in metro Bangkok, which came on the heels of an in-depth NatGeo magazine report.
Regular reporting on conditions faced by animals seems to do little to stem the tide of tourists willing to forego asking questions in pursuit of the ultimate vacation trophy photo.
Most commentators blamed the Phuket Zoo impunity on inaction by government regulators.
“The buck stops with the appropriate government department that can shut this place down,” wrote user David Holbourne in a comment. “The question is has it got a conscience or does the baht do the talking?”
One month ago, the zoo was cleared of wrongdoing after a 3-year-old elephant pup, who had been the subject of a global campaign seeking his release, died of a stomach infection.
A Facebook page called Phuket Zoo of Misery and Neglect has become a clearinghouse for disturbing scenes found within the island facility.