The newspaper mentions an exhibit at the zoo called ‘Shoot ‘n Feed’ with tourists firing pellet guns at targets above a tiger pen - direct hits release food to waiting tigers - and tricks that see tigers jumping through a flaming hoop.
The NYT prompted a Thai blogger to visit the Sriracha Tiger Zoo herself. He experience may well shed some light on the background and ownership of these zoos, which has always been something of a mystery.
“I have avoided going to this particular zoo for decades,” wrote the Thai lady. “I already knew its bad reputation and had recently read the article about it in the NYT. So why bother?”
“Well, to get to the truth of anything, it’s best to go to the source. See a place for yourself and try not to judge.
“Inside the zoo, I sat in front of many small cages and talked to the young tigers, the way you would talk to a dog.
“They were so cute, but sometimes cried because their cage is small and there is not much to do except pace back and forth or just sit.
“I watched the tiger show and as others were clapping, I felt ashamed.
‘But I thought it was owned by a Thai man?’ I replied quite shocked.
‘No,” she said. ‘Chinese company.’
“Later I re-read the NYT article again and realized that the owner of this zoo was never mentioned. Why not? “Long story short...I don’t know the solution to tiger speed breeding, tiger farms, tiger sales to China.
If the consumers of tiger bones and tiger products had any heart at all, they would never buy these evil products.”
In its article, the NYT says that officials from the Department of National Parks have admitted that the temple tigers had died in their supervision, many from stress-related causes and inbreeding. It added that no one from the Tiger Temple had been jailed for possessing tiger parts or for
operating the lucrative unlicensed zoo.
Founder of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand Edwin Wiek is quoted in the NYT as saying that the number of tigers in captivity – including those remaining in the government’s custody - has tripled to about 2,000, and the number of facilities with captive tigers has grown to 67, with two more under construction.
According to the newspaper, at least 20 zoos now operate in Thailand, though other sources suggest the number is much higher. The article went on: “Animal welfare activists have long urged the government to shutter those tiger zoos that are little more than farms producing animals for the black market.”
Thailand is estimated to have some 50 tigers still living in the wild. Activists rack them but will not disclose their whereabouts for fear of illegal hunting.