Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo advertise to the public that they can swim with a tiger cub for 30 minutes. They appear to swim in a modified version of a swimming pool which is quite possibly chlorinated. I don’t know. Not only is the advert misleading judging by a customer’s comment on the tripadvisor.co.uk website, the whole process of forcing a tiger cub to swim with customers in the interests of financial gain is being heavily criticised by many people and organisations including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It is interesting to comment on this by starting with the customer’s criticism. She says she was deceived because she paid $226 to swim with a tiger cub for a mere six minutes having been promised 30 mins. The six minutes was her share of the time with the cub because there were four other people in the pool with her. The cub must have been handed around from person to person, each getting their allotted six minute slot. A tiger cub should be swimming with his mother in the wild not with humans in a pool in a zoo. Customers who participate in this experience facilitate what is considered by many to be tiger cub abuse.
PETA lobbied the USDA to make a complaint to Dade City’s Wild Things. The USDA says that the zoo has continued to mishandle infant and juvenile tigers; exposing them to injury and harm.
It has been claimed that an employee at the zoo mishandled a cub by lowering the young tiger into a pool by his/her tail, In addition the cub’s tail was pulled to restrain him in the pool and further he was pulled out of the pool by his right foreleg.
In another incident, it is alleged, that a journalist was allowed to mishandle a tiger. The reporter was said to have pulled a young tiger back into the pool against his will after he tried to get out.
A petition has been started and has very nearly met its goal of 330,000 signatures (the current number of supporters is 322,971 at the time of writing this). The petition was started by Sue Lee.
She writes that the administrators of the zoo will vigorously defend criticisms and complaints or legal actions against them:
“We’re going to keep doing it until the Supreme Court or God comes down and says stop doing it.” (believed to have been said by Brittany Peet, a deputy director at the PETA Foundation)
In other words they vow to continue to abuse (by the standards of others) young tiger cubs in the interests of making money until they are ordered by a court to stop. They are adamant that the cubs are not being mishandled. There have been neither injuries to cubs nor the public they say.
We all have our views on this sort of behaviour. The zoo justify their actions by saying that eventually there will be no tigers left in the wild and therefore they have to focus on enhancing their zoo because, at some time in the future, the only tigers on the planet will be in zoos. They are probably right about that but it does not justify abusing tigers for monetary profit. That is my personal view.
In addition, they can say what they like about whether a tiger is stressed or not. But how are they to know if a tiger cub is stressed or not? To an outsider looking in, taking a common sense viewpoint, the zoo’s behaviour appears indecent, immoral, plain wrong and likely to distress juvenile tigers. It is an abuse of this beautiful animal and to do it to young, vulnerable infant tigers is, as far as I’m concerned, reprehensible.
Clearly a lot of people agree with me because if the petition can achieve a third of a million supporters it clearly indicates public opinion is against them. I hope public pressure will force them to take stock and do the decent thing.
There are other abuses of tiger cubs in the US. One example is roadside tiger handling/play/photo sessions. They look awful to me.