Animal Tourism: Thai Caregivers' Perspectives on Their Relationships with Elephants and Tigers.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.3390/ani12060790
This study explored the perspectives of elephant mahouts (n = 55) and tiger caregivers (n = 18) working in 4 private or 2 government facilities in Thailand to learn their experiences and viewpoints pertaining to use of animals in tourism. Interviews were conducted in Thailand at facilities in four cities. Mahouts working in private tourism facilities used one-to-one management and were significantly younger and more poorly compensated than those working at government-funded zoos, where some had shifted to group management. Tiger caregivers in tourism had direct contact with young tigers, with group management; these caregivers also were significantly younger than in government zoos, and with fewer benefits. Mahouts and tiger caregivers differed in how they viewed their relationships with their animals. Most mahouts considered their elephants as family members; a slight majority of these questioned the ethics of use of elephants in tourism. Tiger caregivers classified tigers as family or friend equally often; one-third of tiger caregivers declined answering on their approval of using tigers in tourism. What to do with aging tigers is a problem; this may explain some tiger caregivers' reticence to answer questions about using young tigers in tourism. While solving some problems, animal tourism creates several challenges.