Tiger Supervisor, Giles Clark from Australia Zoo features in a three-part documentary on BBC2, focusing on the initial four months of the first ever Sumatran cubs to be born at the zoo. The cubs were taken to Giles’ home so that they could be cared for and supervised round-the-clock.
Why keep tigers in modern zoos? 21st Century Tiger firmly believe that good zoos are essential to conservation efforts and without their efforts the wild animals would be in a much worse position.
Zoo tigers play an important role in educating and engaging the public about the need to conserve the wild species. The effect of seeing these beautiful animals up close cannot be replicated with television or books.
Financial support for wild tiger conservation through zoos has been highly significant.
An often overlooked aspect of keeping tigers in zoos is transference of knowledge in veterinary care. Without knowledge on how to safely anaesthetise tigers, tracking studies in the wild would not be possible.
Whilst captive tigers are considered to be a genetic insurance policy through managed breeding, the zoo community hope that they will never need to part of a reintroduction solution.
Find out how 21st Century Tiger works with zoos.
21st Century Tiger have been monitoring online discussion about the programme and the questions it raises. Whilst the welfare of tigers is paramount, is Australia Zoo contributing to conservation by raising the cubs in this way? Is separating the cubs from their mother at an early age negated by the rich life they live through this kind of enrichment?
- Large amounts of money is raised from tiger shows at the zoo, which is donated to wild tiger conservation projects.
- As well as raising money, the zoo is highly effective at educating visitors about the plight of wild tigers.
- Australia Zoo believe that a hands on approach means tigers have a less stressful life in captivity and ensures that the tigers are physically and mentally stimulated.
- In the documentary, removing the cubs from the mother was heart wrenching to watch and not well explained.
- Seeing a tiger in someones home, may give the wrong impression to some viewers. Tigers are not cute pets, and this may distract from the issues facing wild tigers.
- Assumptions may be made that this is standard practice, but very few zoos advocate this hands-on husbandry practice.
In the second episode, Giles visits Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra. Our regular supporters will know this is the same protected area in which we have been funding wild tiger conservation projects for over ten years.
In a statement from Giles in the BBC article promoting the programme, “Not everyone agrees with hand-rearing cubs this way – but to my mind, it’s the best thing for them.
These cubs are not going back into the wild, nor will their offspring. They have an important role to play in conservation, both as an insurance population and to help educate the public about the plight of tigers in Sumatra…..
In an ideal world I would not want to have tigers in captivity – they belong in the wild. Unfortunately, it’s not an ideal world and they are facing the prospect of extinction literally down the barrel of a gun. And if I’m going to have them in captivity, I want to give them the best possible lifestyle that I possibly can.”
As the series progresses, 21st Century Tiger hopes that the BBC portray a stronger conservation message. Zoo tigers are, after-all, ambassadors for their cousins in the wild.