Category: Tigers

Ballsy Thai Tourist Grabs Tiger’s Crown Jewels

Look at the balls on this one!

A woman from Thailand apparently decided that caging, beating and sedating tigers for selfies wasn’t enough mistreatment for Earth’s critically endangered apex predators. You can always add more insult, just a little icing on the “We Destroyed Your Entire Species” cake, by grabbing a handful of tiger testicles and mean-mugging for a selfie.

Of course the reason the tourist, named Waraschaya Akkarachaiyapas (also referred to as Khun Waraschaya in some media reports), was able to enter the tiger enclosure and pose with the tigers in the first place is because the keepers at Tiger Kingdom zoo in Thailand sedate the animals until they can barely yawn, rendering them incapable of defending their personal space or doing anything other than laying down as tourist after tourist touches them and poses for selfies.

Tiger Kingdom was at the forefront of the so-called “Disneyfied” “zoo experience,” in which the operators rake in millions by breeding tiger cubs like an assembly line and charging tourists to interact and pose for photo with the animals.

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The tourists are told comforting lies: Employees of Tiger Kingdom dress like Buddhist monks, spout platitudes about being one with nature, and claim their “humble” operation began when one kindly monk took in an orphaned cub and founded a sanctuary decades ago.

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Tourists are told that kindly monks founded a sanctuary after taking in an orphaned tiger cub.

The reason the tigers are so docile, the tourists are told, is because the monks hand-raise them, socializing them with humans from a young age. (Paging Siegfried and Roy, as well as Joe Exotic’s two former employees who lost limbs to hand-reared tigers!)

The comforting fiction allows tourists to justify what they’re doing: When an acquaintance of mine proudly changed her social media profile photo to a shot of herself hugging an adult tiger, she acted as if she was shocked by the suggestion that the tigers were sedated. No, she explained, you don’t understand! These tigers were hand-raised by the monks from the time they were cubs! That’s why they love spending 12 hours a day having their tails pulled and getting mounted by tourists who want to ride them like horses. They love it!

It takes only a few seconds to refute what we’ll gently call that misconception: Articles abound of former employees and conservation experts describing horrific conditions for the animals at Tiger Kingdom. (It’s not the only “zoo” that thrives on selling big cat interactions in Thailand: When the infamous “Tiger Mountain” attraction was raided by authorities in 2016, they found the remains of more than 60 tiger cubs, tiger pelts, and “around 1,500 tiger skin amulets, plus other trinkets apparently made of tiger teeth.”)

The cubs, who would normally spend at least two years with their mothers, are taken away when they’re infants so Tiger Kingdom’s employees can hand-raise them, and not with the care and good intent they claim: The operators want the cubs to be accustomed to being handled and passed around so they don’t protest too much when tourists manhandle them.

The cubs are big money-makers, and tourists will pay a premium to feed them from milk bottles. The baby tigers are fed and fed until they can’t drink anymore, then they’re fed some more, former employees say. The bottle-feeding only stops when the day’s over and there are no more tourists forking over an additional $15 to get “adorable” photos of themselves with the babies.

That’s also the age when the cubs are introduced to the bamboo stick, the primary tool for keeping them in line. A cub who doesn’t want to leave its cage for another day of manhandling and force-feeding is smacked on the nose with a bamboo stick until it complies.

Tiger attractions like the infamous one at Thailand’s Tiger Kingdom have popped up all around the world, with interest fueled by enthusiastic reviews from celebrities like Beyoncé, who shared photos of her visit to an American tiger park with her millions of Instagram followers.

If Queen Bey says it’s okay, then it must be okay. Okay? 

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Queen Bey says it’s okay to mess with tiger cubs and chimp babies, so it must be okay!
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Queen Bey says it’s okay!

Life as a cub at Tiger Kingdom is a walk in the park compared to adulthood. Most of the adults are confined in cages 24 hours a day and are only let out on busy days when the operation swells with visitors who want tiger selfies. (Tiger selfies are extraordinarily popular with men who use them on dating site profiles, and Buddy’s home state of New York went so far as to ban tiger selfies because of their prevalence.)

When you consider the context, it’s really not surprising when someone like Waraschaya Akkarachaiyapas feels perfectly comfortable literally molesting the animals for her amusement.

We’ve poached this species to the brink of extinction and destroyed its habitat. We make rugs of their pelts, mount their taxidermied heads to our walls, sell their claws and teeth as trinkets, and grind their bones into dust for use in elixirs that allegedly cure ailments like baldness and erectile disfunction, according to ridiculous millennia-old folk medicine systems. (Having exhausted their supply of tigers to slaughter for traditional Chinese “medicine,” the Chinese have turned to poaching the Amazon’s jaguars to fuel their insatiable appetite for big cat parts. Jaguar poaching has skyrocketed “200 fold” in the last five years to fuel Chinese demand for animal parts.)

In that context, literally molesting a helpless animal is a drop in the ocean of abuse, decimation and the destruction of the dignity of these amazing animals. We’re supposed to be the intelligent species on this planet, the wise caretakers of the only world that we know of brimming with life. We are failing miserably.

 

Dear Buddy: Why Do You Sound Like Elmo Singing In Falsetto?

Dear Buddy,

Why do you sound like Elmo singing in falsetto?

Laughing in Laramie


Dear Laughing,

Who is Elmo and what is falsetto? If Elmo sounds like me, he must be mighty and have the roar of a tiger!

Buddy


Buddy,

You’ve never heard of Elmo? Here, have a listen:

Laughing in Laramie


Dear Laughing,

Haha, very funny. I don’t sound anything like Elmo. This is what I sound like: (Editor’s note: This is an actual recording of Buddy, with Big Buddy interjecting with his imitation meows. Although the sound of Buddy’s roar is undoubtedly intimidating, try to remain calm. He is friendly.)

Buddy


Dear Buddy,

Was that you or another recording of Elmo? I couldn’t tell. Well if your career as a supposedly fearsome cat doesn’t work, you can always get work as an Elmo impersonator!

LOL


Dear Buddy,

He’s wrong, you don’t sound like Elmo…you sound like Elmeow! Ahahaha!

Giggling in Galicia

It’s difficult to believe such a mighty roar can come from such a cute little guy, isn’t it?

Spectacular Photos Show Big Cats As They’re Meant To Live

One photo shows a melanistic leopard — better known as a black panther — cautiously but curiously poking its head out from behind a tree. Another shows the same cat, tail raised and ready to spring as it stalks prey in the jungle mists.

The photos went viral this week, accumulating millions of views as people hailed the leopard as the second coming of Rudyard Kipling’s Bagheera, the beloved leopard from The Jungle Book.

Both photos come from the lens of Shaaz Jung, known as the “Leopard Man of India” for his astonishing shots of the majestic cats taken deep in the country’s jungles and forests.

“When people see these pictures, they think there are several leopards, but actually there’s just one black panther where we are — one melanistic leopard in the dense forest of Nagerhole. So it was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Jung told BusinessInsider.

The leopard has been named Saya by local wildlife enthusiasts, and he’s a bit out of his element in the deciduous Kabini forest, which is also home to a tiger preserve. Normally, leopards like Saya live in dense jungle, where the thick canopy and lack of light play to their advantage.

Jung patiently followed Saya, snapping photos of the big cat hunting, fighting and courting potential mates.

“He’s not just surviving, he is thriving,” Jung said.

Jung is a wildlife photographer, NatGeo’s director of photography for films and a big cat specialist in his own right. He also photographs India’s tigers, and his shots reveal a connection to — and a deep appreciation of — these regal apex predators who have been pushed back by human development and the resulting habitat loss.

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The man behind the camera: Shaaz Jung.

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Tigers share a quiet moment as they trade scents. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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Leopards are known for their exceptional climbing ability as well as their preternatural hunting skills. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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A leopard enjoys a mid-day respite from the sun — and bothersome rivals — on a broad tree branch. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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A tiger stops for a drink with the water reflecting its wary gaze. Photo: Shaaz Jung

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Tigers are the world’s largest, heaviest cats, the apex predators among apex predators. This close-up is a reminder of how beautiful and regal they are. Photo: Shaaz Jung

Chinese Government to Citizens: ‘Deal With’ Your Pets, Or We Will

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a government with no respect for any kind of life — human or animal — would threaten the mass extermination of cats and dogs.

It’s par for the course in China, where authorities in dozens of cities and provinces are urging people to “deal with” their pets in the wake of the Coronavirus threat — or the government will, media reports say.

The warnings have been issued in Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus, as well as Shanxi, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Hebei and Shanghai, according to the Humane Society International.

Yet there’s no evidence the virus has been transmitted by domesticated pets like cats and dogs, and no evidence those animals can catch it from humans, experts say.

In Wuhan, residents have been told to keep their pets indoors, and warned that any cats or dogs spotted outdoors will be “killed and buried on the spot,” the UK’s Metro reported.

But experts say it’s the government’s fault that the virus jumped from wild animals to humans in the first place. China has refused to shut down so-called “wet markets,” where live animals are sold next to the carcasses of recently-slaughtered animals, despite the fact that SARS and other viruses originated from those markets.

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A Chinese wet market. Credit: Nikkei

Officials believe the Coronavirus originated at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, one of many “wet markets” described as “filthy, crowded places where animals are displayed alive in small cages” and “are often slaughtered on site.”

China has been “mired in long-held beliefs about the benefits of eating exotic and often endangered animals for good health,” the Humane Society said in a statement, referring to traditional Chinese “medicine” and other folk practices that use animal parts in ineffective and dangerous tonics and elixirs.

In addition to creating the circumstances for viruses to jump from wild animals to humans, the illegal wildlife trade has pushed animals like tigers and pangolins to the brink of extinction.

“Chinese society is boiling with anger at wildlife policy failures,” said the Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, Peter Li. “Social media is full of posts condemning the refusal to shut down the wildlife markets. This is the worst Chinese New Year in China’s recent history.”

Buddy’s Dark Materials

With a Game of Thrones-size void left in my TV-watching schedule, and shows I care about — The Expanse, The Last Kingdom, The Witcher — either between seasons or yet to debut, I’ve been watching HBO’s newest big-budget fantasy adaptation, His Dark Materials.

Based on a series by the British novelist Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials follows the adventures of Lyra, an 11-year-old girl living in a parallel world that resembles a steampunk version of Victorian England.

What sets the series apart, aside from its fantastical setting, is the prominent presence of animals. Lots and lots of animals. Animals everywhere: Rabbits, foxes and cats underfoot, hawks and eagles in the air, snakes slithering on the shoulders of their humans.

In Lyra’s world, the human soul isn’t a nebulous concept or incorporeal entity. Instead, each person’s soul takes the physical form of an animal.

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James McAvoy plays Lord Asriel, whose daemon is a powerful and intimidating snow leopard named Stelmaria. Credit: HBO

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Stelmaria looks just like a real snow leopard, a credit to the show’s visual effects team, who had their work cut out for them with this adaptation. Credit: HBO

These animals — somewhat controversially called daemons in the books and series — are fully sapient creatures with the ability to speak, and they often serve as the conscience and voice of reason for their humans. The bond between humans and their daemons are sacred, the series informs us, and they cannot be separated.

The daemons of children can change form, taking the shape of virtually any animal, but upon adulthood each person’s daemon “settles” as a particular animal and no longer shifts. A daemon in its settled form, the series tells us, reflects the true nature of a person.

Nomadic people’s daemons often settle as hawks. Sneaky or evil characters have daemons who settle as snakes and insects. Protagonist Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon, hasn’t “settled” yet in the series, and he’s been seen as a cat, a moth and a fox — among other forms — but he usually takes the form of a snow white ermine:

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Lyra (Daphne Keen) and Pantalaimon, the tiny ermine to the left. Credit: HBO

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Ruth Wilson plays Mrs. Coulter, whose daemon is a snub-nosed monkey. Credit: HBO

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Lin Manuel Miranda plays the roguish aeronaut Lee Scoresby, whose daemon is a rabbit named Hester. Credit: HBO

Of course, were I to occupy Lyra’s world, my daemon would be a massive and powerful tiger. I mean, let’s face it, no other animal would do me justice. 🙂

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Who would mess with me if I had my own tiger? Credit: Andrew James

Alas, I already have one, and his name is Buddy. While watching the show, I couldn’t help but notice the way the animals follow their humans is precisely the way my cat follows me. The show’s daemons are never far from their human counterparts, and straying too far away causes them pain. To hear Buddy yowl when I’m on the other side of the bathroom door, he feels the same way.

Unfortunately he wouldn’t be much help in a fight, but he’d be a hell of a wingman!

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“You’re never getting away from me, dude!”