The tourists largely have gone, but Chiang Mai’s tigers remain and someone must still care for them.
There are more than 50 Bengal, Siberian and other tigers, cheetahs and other big cats at the Mae Rim Tiger Kingdom. They range in age from seven months to seven years.
Tiger keepers maintain that Plum, Bank and other tigers, as well as cheetahs Namon and Namo, are not fierce like wild cats, but tigers and cheetahs can never be domesticated.
But tiger keepers said they can play or even cuddle with the big animals.
Tiger-care manager Pirom Chantama said tiger cages require regular cleaning and the big cats themselves are showered to rid them of a musty smell in winter.
Newborns are nursed in temperature-controlled pens with their mothers to keep them warm.
Pirom believes the tigers are lonely without tourists to visit them, but time away from prodding and poking humans also allows them to play amongst themselves in the afternoons.
“These tigers don’t have to be played with all the time. But we have to pay attention to them,” Pirom said. “With small tigers, for example, we give them a shower in the morning and blow dry their fur, then send them to play with bigger tigers.”
He said every tiger is counted and checked every day to be sure it’s in good health. Pirom said the Tiger Kingdom’s four-legged residents are healthy and in a good mood these days.