The Hidden Truth About Tiger King And Roadside Zoos

Alais Alzaga, Media Arts Editor

Did you know that there are more tigers in captivity in the United States than in the wild? The Guardian said, “According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, there are between 3,200 and 3,500 tigers remaining in the wild globally. By some estimates, there are 5,000 in captivity in the US, though there might be more.”

As many have watched Tiger King on Netflix, people are starting to bring attention to this issue. Tigers are pretty cool, but there shouldn’t be more in captivity than in the wild. The fact that there are more tigers here in the U.S. is saddening, especially since the conditions aren’t always so great. They often live in overly small spaces, are declawed, cubs are pulled from their mothers, bred then sold, and the list goes on. They also often inbred to have a white coat which can lead to birth defects and other issues like hip dysplasia, kidney problems, club feet, and more. Note that there are no more wild white tigers and that they are not a separate species, they just carry a recessive gene which makes their coat white.

These roadside zoos have turned into a whole business industry and it is quite disturbing. According to The Guardian, “The Humane Society estimates that a single baby tiger can bring in $65,000 in one summer.” These roadside zoos have many different interaction options like swimming with the baby tigers, taking photos with them, and feeding them. These people are making money off the mistreatment of these big cats who shouldn’t be going through this abuse. Shows like Tiger King almost romanticize these roadside zoos and have turned them into tourism hot spots.

Tigers, in general, are already an extremely endangered species and that means we need to keep them safe and in the wild. Due to climate change, habitat loss, poachers, and those stealing and breeding these tigers for these roadside zoos, tigers in the wild are disappearing fast. It is important that these beautiful animals are in the wild where they should be rather than in small cages being abused.

Although roadside zoos like in Tiger King may offer some entertainment value it is at the cost of the tigers. After learning about the harsh conditions and downsides of roadside zoos, one should reconsider visiting and supporting one, alongside not watching shows and movies that exploit tigers.