So this story about a cat fearlessly staring down an elephant in Thailand has gone viral, and the photo is admittedly pretty incredible. Bud would’ve soiled himself and bolted, but this cat is truly brave.
“This is my territorah!” we imagine the cat declaring. “Find your own trees!”
The cat’s name is Simba, he’s three years old, and the photos were taken on the night of Nov. 17 in Thailand’s Nakhon Nayok province, about 112 km (70 miles in the Proper American Method of Measuring Distance™) northeast of Bangkok.
Beyond that, though, it’s actually a sad story: You know things are truly dire when we’ve destroyed so much wildlife habitat that elephants are coming up to people’s houses and eating the trees and shrubs in their gardens. Elephants usually do everything they can to avoid humans, and for good reason: Conflicts almost always end poorly for the elephants.
We hope this photo draws the attention of the right people, who can perhaps mitigate the situation or put resources into moving the elephants to a more suitable range.
P.S. Buddy disputes any and all allegations that he would have soiled himself or run away from elephants. In fact, the elephants are lucky they don’t share a continent with Buddy!
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.
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.
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?
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.
In a scene that looked like the classic “cat on a keyboard” writ large, an especially affectionate tabby crashed a Buddhist ceremony on New Years Eve and demanded the attentions of a monk in the midst of a five-hour-long prayer.
The tabby, who is a regular at Wat Udomrangsi near Bangkok, seemed unfazed by the chanting and approached Luang Pi Komkrit Taechachoto, a 25-year-old monk.
A video uploaded by an amused bystander shows the striped kitty climbing into Taechachoto’s lap and rubbing his scent glands on the young monk’s saffron robes. After several nudging prompts from kitty, Taechachoto wisely decided to scratch the little one on his head and cheeks.
“I was trying to read the book,” Taechachoto told Reuters, “but I was more focused on the cat.”
The bold and apparently contented kitty even kneaded on Taechachoto’s robes.
Then came the moment that will be familiar to cat servants across the globe, regardless of the language they speak or the culture they’re a part of: As Taechachoto leaned forward to turn the page on the prayer book in front of him, the cat suddenly realized the book was the primary focus of the monk’s attention, and did what all cats do — he sat on it.
Nophayong Sookphan, the amused attendee who shot the video, told Reuters the affectionate feline stayed just long enough to ring in the New Year, remaining on Taechachoto’s lap for the final 15 minutes of 2019 and sauntering off shortly after the countdown.
The kitty and the young monk will be seeing each other again — the former is among a group of about 15 cats who call the temple complex their home. Animal life is sacred to adherents of Buddhism.
But, Taechachoto said, maybe the cats are too spoiled by the monks: “They’re all fat.”
Chronicling the adventures of Buddy the Cat and his various criminal enterprises.