Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ is a wake-up call for all big cat exploitation

Read Time:   |  31st March 2020

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Brits are being urged to boycott the cruel lion and tiger cub “selfie” trade when booking future holidays as Netflix docuseries Tiger King shines a light on the cruelty behind the photos.


A new 7-part docuseries on Netflix, Tiger King, which details the “lives of big cat owners in the US, murder for hire, polygamy, country music and politics” according to the online streaming service, is currently captivating audiences around the world.

Keen to warn the public that the scenes of animal abuse shown in the series are by no means unusual, the Humane Society International wants to make viewers aware that this is the “sad everyday reality for thousands of captive big cats around the world.”

HSI hopes that interest in the series will help shine a global spotlight on big cat exploitation, and the part that we as tourists from the UK and around the world can unwittingly play in their suffering.

‘Snuggle scam tourist traps’

Tiger King shows zoo owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) breeding animals to provide baby animals for public photo shoots and “play time” sessions before euthanizing a number when they became too large.

With many of us self-isolating and making future travel plans, the HIS is urging Brits not to visit facilities where they can take selfies with big cats, which are particularly popular in South Africa which has an estimated 8,000 – 12,000 captive-bred lions held in more than 300 lion farms.

HSI warns that unsuspecting tourists are often unaware that they are paying for selfie opportunities with infant lion cubs snatched from their mothers at just a few hours old, before eventually being sold “to be killed in canned hunting operations or for the international lion-bone trade for the Asian traditional medicine market.”

In South East Asia too, travellers flock to ‘tiger temples’ without realising that the animals are often stolen from the wild and sedated with drugs to make them easier to handle, as well as being beaten and having their teeth or claws removed.

Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of HSI/Africa, said: “Netflix viewers around the world are sickened by what the Tiger King docuseries has brought to light. But it’s more than just a sad story – thousands of big cats around the world endure a similar life of captive exploitation paid for by tourist pounds, euros and dollars.

“Our plea to everyone watching the Tiger King during lockdown is to not simply be appalled by the animal suffering from your sofa, but to pledge never to pay for or support these snuggle scam tourist traps once normal life resumes and the time comes to book a vacation to Africa or South East Asia. These facilities and their activities support and promote an inhumane life of abuse, exploitation and destruction of big cats for profit.”

HSI encourages those who were horrified by Tiger King to raise awareness about the cruel reality of captive big cat breeding and help shut the industry down by pledging their support here 

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