Thursday, February 18, 2010
Quote of the day: "Lay down on tiger, please, Madame. Mai pen rai. (No worries.) Had beeg breakfast thees morning."
So, of course, I lay down on the tiger. On six different tigers, actually. And listened to belly rumbles...held one by the tail...stroked soft tiger fur...inhaled not unpleasant tiger smells...gazed deep into tiger eyes...
And fell head over heels in love with tigers.
It all happened at Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai.
Tiger Kingdom is a breeding center for Thailand's critically endangered native species of tiger--the Indo-Chinese tiger, one of five different tiger species world-wide. In the past, they have also done some breeding of Sumatran and Bengal tigers but their main focus is Thailand's native tiger.
Only about 100 Indo-Chinese tigers remain in the wild teak forests of Thailand. Poachers have been relentless in killing them to harvest tiger skins and sell body parts for ancient Chinese medicinal remedies.
Tiger Kingdom is trying to keep the breed from disappearing altogether. The tigers are bred and hand-raised here until they are roughly two to two and a half years old. Then they go to zoos all over the world.
These are gorgeous, healthy, well-cared for animals. What enables the center to keep going in tough economic times are the tourists who come here to see them. I paid 740 baht (about $22.) to spend 15 minutes among the big cats and small cats. I also paid a staff person to snap photos of me having fun with the tigers.
The big cats were 20 months old (nearly full grown) and the smaller ones only seven months. I could have chosen cubs also, but you're limited to only 10 minutes with them.
Tigers are active at night and sleep during the day, especially after a big breakfast (chicken, I was told). However, I got enough photos of tigers rough-housing to know that they don't sleep all the time during the day!
We had to be careful not to inadvertently "invite them to play." (I really didn't want even the smaller ones jumping on top of me. Their paws are huge--and so are their jaws.)
We were told it was okay to touch them but to avoid the face and front paws and use a firm touch--nothing tentative or wishy-washy.
Playing with tigers wasn't the only thing I did today (more on that later) but it was sure the most memorable. I count this an "experience of a lifetime!"
Tigers are quite comfy actually!
Quietly approaching a youngster. The one you see prowling next door is the one I'm hugging in the top photo.
Just a big sleepy pussy cat. This is a seven month old female named--are you ready for this?--Jennifer.
The Big Cats--almost full grown and absolutely gorgeous! This one will be going to a zoo soon.
I think this one is my favorite photo because there's TWO of the Big Cats in it. There were three in the enclosure and I got to "play" with all three.
Take a look at these eyes! There's a beautiful stone called "tiger eye" that comes from Central Thailand. It's this exact same color.
Seven month old.
Love this handsome youngster with his big paws.
There have been times in my life when I thought I had "a tiger by the tail." Well, this time I really do!
Could feel its heartbeat here!
Have more tiger pix but can't stay awake any longer. Hope you enjoyed the break from temples! Probably bored you with all of these shots. But after all, how often in one's life does one get to snuggle up with a tiger?
Posted by KK at 5:03 AM