A video showing a tiger chained up and being prodded with a stick as tourists pose for pictures has sparked outrage across the web. Shared by the NGO Wildlife Friends Foundation, the clip has already been viewed more than a million times and reveals the tragic existence of Thailand's 'selfie tigers'.
The footage, taken in one of the country's numerous tiger farms or 'temples', sees the tiger being jabbed in the face to make it roar as tourists take turns to sit beside or even on top of the animal.
"This tiger gets poked all day, hundreds of times a day so it will roar for the picture with tourists", explains the NGO's founder Edwin Wiek. Behind the scenes, around a dozen more animals are locked up in tiny cages.
Thailand is often heavily criticized by animal rights organisations for its exploitation of elephants, monkeys and tigers – cruelty which fuels the tourist industry. The Wildlife Friends Foundation points out that there are currently around 2,500 tigers living in 45 or more of these tourist centres.
Bred and raised in captivity, many of these animals have never experienced life outside the boundaries of the zoos. Wiek has urged the centre, and others like it, to stop tourists taking selfies with wild animals for the safety and welfare of everyone involved. He states: "Every year, hundreds of people are bitten or clawed in similar situations."
A spokesperson for the zoo, The Million Years Stone Park and Pattaya Crocodile Farm, says that the attendant seen provoking the tiger has been transferred since the clip went viral, which is a pretty feeble solution to a very serious problem.