Have you ever come across a zoo or tourist attraction that features the chance to interact with tiger cubs and take pictures? These facilities often boast their ability to domesticate these otherwise wild beasts, and they claim to be solely focused on conservation … even though the animals they breed in captivity can never be released into the wild.
It is understandable that the unsuspecting tourist would be excited by the opportunity to interact with adorable tiger cubs, but what they don’t know is that in doing so they are supporting and perpetuating immense cruelty to these animals.
In a recent undercover investigation, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) revealed the abuse and exploitation that is inflicted on the tiger cubs at Tiger Safari in Oklahoma and Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. Based on HSUS’s findings, however, these two facilities are anything but a fun experience for the tigers.
The wild tiger population is highly endangered, yet the captive tiger trade runs rampant in the U.S. There are an estimated 7,000 tigers in captivity here and only around 3,000 tigers in their native wild habitat. Attractions like Tiger Safari and the Natural Bridge Zoo fuel the captive tiger trade and perpetuate the abuse of these majestic wild animals.
Of the atrocities wrought against tiger cubs in these roadside attractions, the HSUS documented handlers taking new born cubs from their mothers during the birthing process for hand-rearing. Cubs who are only three or four years old are subjected to physical contact and photo shoots with visitors, they are physically beaten when they do not sit still or cooperate. Natural Bridge Zoo tigers were only fed during photo shoots to ensure their submission to being handled. At Tiger Safari, the cubs were so undernourished that one veterinarian expressed concern over the development of the cubs’ legs. Cubs at both facilities were infected with giardia, ring worm and other diseases that can spread to people – yet they were allowed to be handled by guests nonetheless.
Check out the video below to see the entire investigation. We will warn you it is graphic at points.
Twelve tigers born at both facilities were sent to T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute of Greatly Endangered Species) in Myrtle Beach, SC. This facility has become enormously popular. When investigators arrived at T.I.G.E.R.S, they were given a tour of a secret back room and witnessed dozens of adult tigers crammed in concrete horse stalls. This is the future that cubs who are no long cute enough to be used as props can expect to live.
In a press release, HSUS states, “The investigations provide clear evidence of why the U.S. Department of Agriculture must explicitly prohibit public contact with big cats of any age. This cycle of breeding, exploiting, then dumping baby animals after a few months fuels the exotic pet trade, puts animals at risk, endangers the public, and creates a burden for both law enforcement and nonprofit sanctuaries.”
The HSUS has filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against these two facilities. We sincerely hope to see both Tigers Safari and Natural Bridge Zoo shut down, for the sake of the tigers, sooner rather than later.