Email forward that includes photographs of a tiger suckling several tiger-costumed piglets claims that the baby pigs were given to the mother tiger to counteract her depression after losing her own cubs.
The photographs are genuine. However, the explanation is a work of fiction. The photographs were actually taken at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand, not in California as claimed in the message. The zoo is renowned for its rather bizarre cross-species displays. The tiger suited piglets were not given to a grieving mother tiger to help her depression, but rather to add entertainment value for zoo visitors.
In a zoo in California, a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triple tiger cubs. Unfortunately, due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and due to their tiny size, died shortly after birth.The mother tiger started to decline in health, although physically she was fine. The veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into a depression. The doctors decided that if the tigress could surrogate another mother’s cubs, perhaps she would improve.After checking with many other zoos across the country, the depressing news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only “orphans” that could be found quickly were a litter of wiener pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger.
Would they become cubs or pork chops????????????? Take a look…….. you won’t believe your eyes!!!!”
This email forward arrives with photographs of a mother tiger suckling several piglets cutely clad in “tiger” suits. The message claims that veterinarians at a Californian zoo introduced the disguised piglets to the mother tiger in an effort to alleviate her depression after she lost her real cubs. The photographs are genuine. However, the explanation is a work of fiction.
The photographs were actually taken at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand and not in California. The zoo is renowned for its rather bizarre cross-species displays. According to a 2004 article in the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) Quarterly:
The Sriracha Tiger Zoo, an hour outside of Bangkok, Thailand, is truly an amazing place. Boasting more than 400 tigers, a handful of Asian elephants, piles of crocodiles, camels, snakes and other exotic animals, the zoo has some intriguing, yet troubling exhibits.
In one glass room, a farrowing crate entombed a pig who, lying on her side, nourished both her piglets and tiger cubs. Across the hall, another glass room housed a female tiger, who fed piglets adorned in tiger-print costumes. This incongruous display was replicated elsewhere, where enclosures housed tigers, pigs, and dogs together.
The zoo features a tiger circus and a variety of displays and shows designed to entertain guests, including crocodile and elephant shows, pig racing, “the genius pig that can calculate in 5 languages” and “Scorpion Queen, the girl with over 100 scorpions on her body”. In spite of the claims in the email forward, the tiger suited piglets were not given to a grieving mother tiger to help her depression. Instead, they represent a callous manipulation of animals for the gratification of their human visitors. Other photographs show the piglets interacting with a tiger without their “tiger” disguises, so the tiger suits are clearly to increase the entertainment value of the display and are not really required. Photographs also depict a mother pig returning the “favour” by suckling tiger cubs.
It seems apparent that the author of this email forward has simply invented a touching story to suit a set of rather intriguing images. The photographs are certainly interesting. However, they do not depict an act of kindness by concerned humans intent on helping an animal in distress as implied in the message. Instead, they exemplify our unfortunate willingness to exploit our fellow creatures for our own selfish purposes.
Last updated: 24th May 2010
First published: 26th June 2006
By Brett M. Christensen