Sitting next to this magnificent creature was a once in a lifetime type of experience. Years of seeing her at the zoo and saying “I wish I could cuddle her,” all came true today. For some reason though, I didn’t feel exhilarated after this photo. Instead, I felt a bit of sadness. I tried to shake it off at first, as I can be way over sensitive when it comes to animals- but as the day wore on I realized that I was right to be a bit sad and that others in my group mirrored my sentiments.
There’s a reason we don’t climb into their cages at the zoo, like I did today- and that’s because they’re friggen Tigers- not Siamese cats. Once you climb into a cage and force it to pose for a photo, it becomes less of a tiger somehow. I can think of a lot of words to describe the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand, but none of them are the words you think of when you hear “Tiger.” There was no regal, ferocious, powerful… There was more like dull and depressing. Even the crocodiles looked defeated- being forced to perform in the “show” while some idiot put their head in its mouth. A little part of me wished they’d bite down.
The Tigers wandered around their cement enclosures, their fur seemed the wrong color orange, their eyes didn’t have that look that said ” don’t mess with me,” they looked kind of dirty. All I could think about today was the loss of potential. It was so obvious to me that when we cage something in, be it an animal, a human, a dream- we are messing with a system far greater than we are, assuming a power we don’t have a right to. You can literally feel the disappointment. I thought about all the ways people stifle their own potential and it’s no wonder we don’t see a problem with doing it to other animals. The whole thing felt like a talented singer who gave up their dream for a desk job. I wanted to tell the Tigers, ” you’re better than this!”
Sometimes they would roar… And I would know that they felt it too… Something inside them saying, “I don’t think this is right.” The feeling we all get when we compromise who we are and settle for less than we deserve. I wanted to see them all bust out of their enclosures and make a run for the jungle like in the end of a Disney movie- but they didn’t. They would roar and then lay back down, defeated by a flawed system.
There was a baby elephant and she still had the heart that had been beaten out of the older animals. Her one leg was chained to a pole but she didn’t just stand there- she kept walking back and forth and pulling on that one leg, hoping she could break it free. I went over to calm her and let her know it would be OK – and just that I understood the restlessness. That at times in my life I felt how she felt… She reached her trunk out for me, and my heart broke.
Maybe I am over sensitive and trust me I know there are way more atrocities being done to animals all over the world, don’t even get me started… But there was something wrong today. Fundamentally wrong with the fact that those animals were bred to live like that- for our entertainment. Maybe I can’t singlehandedly get the zoo closed down but I also can’t sit idly by. After seeing what I saw today, I’ve vowed not to let the system break me or silence me. I hope I can make some type of difference for them, even if it’s just to make a few people aware- encourage them to skip that site not their trip and spend their money elsewhere…One thing is certain, I learned some priceless lessons from them today. Next time someone asks me to jump through a flaming hoop for their entertainment I’ll tell them where they can shove it, politely of course. I’m not a cat goddammit – I’m a tiger.
****I don’t have photos of the enclosures, as I didn’t think to write this blog until several hours after I’d left. I’d love to hear your comments and feedback if you have visited the zoo.