Bucket List …

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For some reason, this “Bucket List” has come up on several conversations over the last few days and it reminded me to think about mine and consider how many things I have been able to cross off that list on this journey inward.  I have come to know myself in a way I had never imagined possible with a love so deep that nobody can ever take it away from me.  This process of travelling the world on by myself as a 51-year-old woman has opened my eyes to many things, to many different kinds of people, to my relationships with other people and most importantly the relationship with myself.  I have repeatedly stepped outside of my comfort zone as I have journeyed along over the past seven months and today was no exception!  As you might have come to know, I have a DEEP love for animals and the proper care and consideration of each and every one of them. Tigers are one of the animals that I adore and have always been able to do so, at a safe distance.  Today I was presented with the opportunity to put my fears aside and step in the cage of one of the largest tiger cats in the world and stand beside this massive animal.

Was I scared?   Absolutely!  Did I face some fears? Without a doubt!  Was it Exhilarating? Extremely.

The Bengal Tiger, Panthera tigris tigris, is considered to the second largest species of tiger.  They have a yellow and orange coat, with black or dark brown stripes and a white belly.   Bengal tigers primarily hunt larger mammals including deer, wild boar, cattle and goats.  They are the most numerous species of tiger in Asia and are found in dense forests and mangrove swamps and jungles throughout India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.

They average between 6.8 feet – 11 feet and weight in anywhere from 300lbs to over 600lbs, their average life span is between 18-25 years.  They are massive and beautiful!

These beautiful beasts are on the endangered species list.

The Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai is a great combination of tourism with wildlife preservation. The proceeds from tourist visits to the Tiger Kingdom are mainly directed to investments in captive breeding of tigers.

The tiger population in Thailand has been decreasing every year. It’s estimated that only around 120 tigers still inhabit the wild. The projections are more catastrophic. Specialists argue that it’s just a matter of time before tigers are completely extinguished from the wild. As human population grows, areas in which tigers can live freely diminish. Tiger-human contact becomes inevitable and, as a treat to, for example, pastoral communities, tigers are commonly hunted down and killed.

The Tiger Kingdom aims to increase the tiger population through captive breeding. These tigers, however, are not prepared to inhabit the wild and therefore, are fated to remain in captive from birth to death, which, given the current situation, it’s understood to be better than no tigers at all.

Since the tigers have been born in captive and fed a special diet of milk and chicken, they tend to be less aggressive than tigers in the wild. Captive tigers, therefore, can be visited by tourists, who pay a considerable amount of money to spend around 10-15 minutes with them.

The proceeds from tourism allows Tiger Kingdom to increase the tiger population through captive breeding, as well as improve the overall living conditions of the tigers through the acquisition of larger areas for them to roam around. Currently, the Tiger Kingdom has over 100 tigers in captive.  (Tiger Kingdom website)

It saddens me and breaks my heart a little to see animals in captive but when I know that the organizations that house these animals are doing it for good reasons I feel a bit better about their confines.
My time in Chiang Mai has allowed me to fulfill some dreams and tick a few things off my bucket list and be forever grateful for these opportunities to spend time with animals that I would never otherwise have had the opportunity.
I would start with the smallest tiger spending some time alone with him in his private quarters.  He would barely acknowledged my presence but was kind enough to pose for some pictures and allow me time to just be there with him enjoying each moment.
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Next I would head over to the biggest cats of them all and be escorted right into the cage. As I was nearing the entrance a group of 5 people were just leaving the cage that held two massive tigers, one of the tigers was visibly upset, letting his voice be heard while he chewed on a massive piece of wood, the tourists hurried out of the cage.
As I entered the area they had me read over a list of do’s and don’ts, wash my hands, remove my knapsack.   I felt unsure and scared about going into the cage with a wild animal who did not look happy but I did it anyway.  I was surrounded by 5 handlers as we walked past the upset tiger and over to his roommate in the cage just beyond his cage taking us further from the door to which we would exit.  My heart was pounding with both fright and excitement.  The tiger experts would each take on a particular role to keep these massive beasts on their best behaviour.  Scared and unsure yet excited like a child I stood next to an animal I have had a deep love and admiration for all of my life. My mind would want to remind me the dangers of being so close to a wild animal that was clearly 5 times my size but my excitement drowned out its warnings as I stood beside this massive beast and proclaimed my own animal instinct.
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Incredible, massive, strong, gorgeous, incredible, beautiful …

He was kind and considerate letting me touch him and be around him,  I kept my eyes on him as he glanced at me a few times.

 

After our visit I would spend a good long time wandering around the kingdom and just watching them sleep or pace around walking back and forth.   My lucky day, there would be two baby white tigers born just a couple of weeks ago.  I would stand for a long time watching these two precious little creatures make all sorts of tiny baby tiger noises while the handler tried to clip their nails.  It was sadness that filled my heart when I read that these two tiny creatures had been removed from their mother’s, who were housed in the cages not more than 20 meters away because, in one case, the mother simply rejected the baby and in the other because the baby had a slightly flattened chest and his mother rejected him.  These two tiny babies were without their mama’s crying, looking for something to snuggle up against, looking for a teet, as I watched I felt the tears sting my eyes and before I knew it they were dripping down my face as I thought of these tiny babies without the comfort of their mothers.

They were beautiful tiny creatures born into a world to be taken from their mother’s at the tender age of 2 weeks old.

Another experience I won’t soon forget!  Grateful beyond words!

 

 

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