The experience of seeing, touching, feeding and playing with these magnificent creatures is incredibly hard to describe. Watching giant stripey kittens stalk Heidi’s multi-coloured skirt as she remained blissfully unaware of the danger, and feeling the strength of the cubs as they play with the toy we were waving around for them, was mind-blowing and a little scary.
Seeing a six-foot adult (from head to bum) reach up and shred the bark of a tree nine-feet off the ground, with claws that would reduce a human to pulp within seconds, and then relax in the sun with his head in Tommy’s lap, made me feel humble at the power of an apex predator and sad that their numbers have been tragically reduced at the hands of mankind.
Yes, we have heard the stories about these animals being drugged for the tourist dollar, but we physically walked the tigers back to their enclosure before being allowed in to sit with them and at no stage were they given anything to eat or drink as they headed down the steep path to their pen where they were in complete view from us at all time. If they had been slipped something beforehand then I doubt they would have made the distance. Perhaps I am being naive, but I prefer to believe that the gentle, caring, peaceful nature of the monks is the reason that the tigers remain tranquil and passive to the presence of humans.