The image may seem glamorous, but, according to experts, the story behind it may be far uglier. Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a wildlife expert with World Animal Protection, said in a statement that the "tiger photo" trend is, in fact, part of an industry that relies on animal cruelty to force the tigers to behave.
"Many tourists unwittingly contribute to the suffering of wild animals like these," he said. "They're simply not aware that their 'once in a lifetime' photo means a lifetime of misery for that animal."
Many of the tigers living in so-called tourist attractions have been separated from their mothers at a young age, and are beaten during training. They often live for up to 20 hours each day in tiny cages or chained to the floor. Some are even drugged so that they will be receptive to tourists who want to take photos near them.
Last week, Beyoncé took flak for riding an Asian elephant calf, also in Thailand. Animal advocates say that, like the captive tiger industry, the elephant tourism industry thrives on separating calves from their mothers and forcefully coercing them to obey. See this page for more information on responsible animal tourism and how to plan a vacation that will help animals, not harm them.
FantaSea did not immediately respond to The Dodo's request for comment.