Category: travel

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.

 

Cats Are The Monks At This Japanese Temple

One of the highlights of my trip to Japan last summer was Gotokuji Temple, the famous “cat shrine” in Tokyo’s Setagaya suburb.

Gotokuji is home to thousands of statues of maneki-neko, or “beckoning cat,” an important and ubiquitous image in Japan: Statues of maneki-neko adorn shops and virtually every public place in Tokyo, but Gotokuji is where the legend of the beckoning cat was born. Visitors write prayers on the statues and ask for good luck for a variety of venture, from opening new businesses to getting married.

There is, however, only one current feline resident at Gotokuji, while Kyoto’s Nyan Nyan Ji — literally “meow meow shrine” — is populated exclusively by feline “monks,” who wear monkly garb and take their duties — especially napping, er, meditating — very seriously.

The most recognizable of them is Koyuki, the chief cat priestess at Nyan Nyan Ji.

Here are some photos, all courtesy of the temple’s Instagram, showing what life is like for Koyuki and her fellow priests:

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“This is how it’s supposed to be, humans: You kneeling before us. Those ancient Egyptians had it right.”

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“I can call upon powerful minions to smite you whenever I please.”

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“Tiny humans are permitted to touch my holy personage.”

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“And here is the nursery, where it’s currently reading time for our kittens…”

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“Walk with me on the path to deliciousness…”

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“Read the sign! We’re not open until I says so. Now if you please, I have napping to do.”

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Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(12)
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(4)

 

The Return Of The King’s Servant

My cat played it cool when I walked through the door today, acting as if he was indifferent to the fact that I’d been gone since Thursday afternoon.

I knew otherwise, of course — not only did Buddy attack his cat sitter, he also puked on two different carpets, leaving me a pair of surprises as a welcome-home gift.

As usual, the little guy couldn’t keep up the charade. After a few minutes he forgot he was supposed to be mad at me and climbed up to head bunt and reestablish his scent on me.

I enjoyed my time in the Catskills despite the heat and the pandemic. It was pretty clear some of the local businesses were hurting, especially those relying on vacationers coming through in the summer season.

For those of you unfamiliar with the region, the Catskills is an area of New York State about 120 miles north of New York City.

Most people who don’t live here think of New York as the city and its surrounding environs like Long Island and Westchester, but the vast majority of the state is rural and known for agriculture and recreation: The National Baseball Hall of Fame, Howe Caverns, Niagara Falls, the Adirondack mountains, Lake George, dozens of ski resorts, rivers for kayaking and fishing, and many other things for people who want to get away.

The Catskills does have a feline etymology, for those of you wondering. “Kill” is the Dutch word for river or creek, and the suffix is found in the names of local towns and rivers: Fishkill, Spackenkill, and Peekskill among them.

The “cat” in Catskill comes from catamount, a somewhat archaic word for a cougar, also known as a puma, mountain lion or panther. Although they’re very rare in the area these days, mountain lions were abundant in the forested valleys and mountains of the Catskill region.

Thus Catskill translates to “cat creek.”

This hotel on Route 28 has a section dubbed The Catamount, with carved wooden mountain lions keeping watch over the guests:

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Belleayre Mountain is a ski resort that offers scenic gondola rides in the summer. Here’s the view from the gondola:

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And from the mountain top:

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I saw this sign in Woodstock. We hope little Spooky finds her way home:

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A sign declares “HIPPIES WELCOME” in Woodstock, but not today — the shop is closed because of COVID-19:

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This is the interior of Candlestock, a candle shop in Woodstock, NY. As the sign says, the “drip mountain” was started 51 years ago and has grown into a monstrosity of wax:

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This dog was well-behaved and polite and waited for us to get up from our chairs before he swooped in for potential crumbs beneath the table. He’s got a unique coat and look, and he’s missing his tail. Does anyone know what kind of dog this is?

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A shop called Modern Mythology on Woodstock’s main stretch:

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Here’s my seven-year-old niece exploring the edge of Esopus Creek:

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A stretch of rural road that I thought looked pretty cool:

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Fabulous Furniture on Route 28 is adorned with metal sculptures of aliens, rocket ships and UFOs, all built by the store’s owner, Steve Heller:

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Heller also builds custom cars:

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Notorious Mob Cat Capo Escapes Animal Control

NEW YORK — One of the east coast’s most ruthless mafioso cats was sprung from the big house on Saturday, officials from animal control confirmed.

Fat Tony Purrtellini, a capo in the Cattazio crime family, escaped in the chaos following a prison brawl between felines and a group of Chihuahuas, witnesses said.

“It was absolute bedlam,” said Fuzzy, a British shorthair who witnessed the scene. “A rowdy group of Los Gatos were talking all sorts of rubbish and told the Chihuahuas they would be knifed if they didn’t stop yapping, but that only made the Chihuahuas yap even louder. Then Fat Tony tossed fuel on the fire by telling the Gatos that the Chihuahuas barked at their mums.”

The chaotic scene was compounded by the Chihuahuas’ loose relationship with reality, a source at animal control said.

”Chihuahuas think they’re the size of Great Danes,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Someone really needs to give those dogs a mirror.”

As the Gatos rained blows on the pint-size dogs and the dogs retaliated by biting the cats’ tails, Fat Tony Purrtellini was spirited away by a mysterious hooded figure.

“It were Harry Mewdini, I’m sure of it,” one inmate said with hushed reverence. “I’ll never forget that face.”

Mewdini is singlehandedly responsible for at least two dozen jailbreaks, federal authorities say. The mysterious cat was originally a magician who worked birthday parties on the Chuck-E-Cheese circuit, wowing kittens by escaping Schroedinger’s box and making balloon mice until he caught the eye of the Cattazio crime family, which had several members serving time and saw promise in Mewdini’s skills.

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“You lookin’ at me?” Fat Tony Purrtellini, capo of the Cattazio Crime Family, is known for ruthless drive-by urinatings.

The impact of Fat Tony’s escape was already felt on the street, where Gatos crews were posting extra look-outs and beefing up security because of the portly feline’s reputation for ruthless drive-by sprayings.

Others were stocking up on Purrtellini’s favorite snacks — including soppressata, mortadella, capicola and prosciutto — to bribe the infamous meowbster.

“You let your guard down for one minute,” said a nip dealer who refused to give his name for fear of reprisals, “and that’s when Fat Tony rolls up with his crew. We’re all terrified of getting soaked.”

The Bronx Zoo: Winter Wonderland

Every Christmas, the staff at the Bronx Zoo transform the grounds into a “winter wonderland,” an LED-illuminated forest of festive fun that begins at sundown.

The good: Young kids will enjoy themselves. The bad: All the animal exhibits are closed, with the tigers, bears, monkeys and elephants brought into their indoor enclosures before dark to shelter from the frigid New York winter.

On Friday night the only animal on duty was Quincy, a 16-year-old Eurasian eagle owl. The impressively-plumed Quincy gamely hung out and remained calm despite a small crowd of guests pointing cameras at him, occasionally repeating a vocalization that sounded more like Buddy’s high-pitched greeting than a call you’d expect from an owl.

Hooting, which is what most of us associate with the nocturnal birds, is more closely associated with territorial displays and mating calls, Quincy’s handler explained.

Bronx Zoo's Quincy
Quincy, a Eurasian eagle owl, wasn’t phased by crowds as he greeted guests at the Bronx Zoo’s Winter Wonderland. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo's Quincy
Eurasian eagle owls live up to 20 years in the wild, but typically live twice that long in captivity. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Frozen castle
Visitors can watch artists chisel ice sculptures. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Winter Wonderland
Under the (very cold) sea. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Bronx Zoo Winter Wonderland
Guests make Smores. Photo: Pain In The Bud

After taking my brother’s kids to Winter Wonderland, we stopped for a look at Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. The owner, 61-year-old Roy Aletti, describes himself as a “maniac” when it comes to holiday decorating.

As you can see, his design philosophy can be summed up as “Buy as much shit as you can and cover every inch of your lawn.” The kids love it.

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Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. Photo: Pain In The Bud

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Roy’s Christmas Land in Harrison, NY. Photo: Pain In The Bud

Roy's Christmas Land
Roy Aletti, 61, has been decorating his home for decades and his display draws a steady stream of admirers every Christmas season. Photo: Pain In The Bud