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January 2014
31
As often happens, this items appears to be a case in which someone came across some unusual photos with no explanatory context, so the viewer decided to make up his own background story. The pictures are real, but the accompanying explanation about a mother tiger in California being given piglets to ease her through a depression stemming from the loss of her own cubs is nothing but fiction. 

The images displayed above were taken in 2004 at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand. Although the Sriracha Tiger Zoo hosts one of the world’s most successful tiger breeding programs, unlike most western zoos it also offers circus- and carnival-like shows, exhibits, and interactions, including (as evidenced here) the mixture of adults and young of quite different species in the same enclosures. As described by the AWI Quarterly, a publication of the Animal Welfare Institute:

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. 

In another area, a visitor could feed milk to a young tiger resting on his or her lap — a young tiger still in possession of his claws … There was a tiger circus, not dissimilar from a circus anywhere else: tigers leaping through rings of fire, walking across a double tightrope, parading around the ring on hind legs, and riding around on the back of the horse.

The mixture of tiger and piglets depicted in the images above therefore was not something undertaken for functional reasons, but rather as a common form of visual entertainment provided by the zoo for the amusement of its visitors. According to the Pattaya Mail, these tiger-pig nursing relationships have also been reciprocated to the extent that the mother tiger shown suckling piglets was herself nursed by a sow:

Visitors recently witnessed some bizarre feeding habits of the zoo’s most famous inhabitants. A two-year-old female pig named Benjamaj is a blended pedigree of parents, Land-Less and Las-White, that were imported from Norway. Benjamaj is a kind and maternal porky. She has taken 4 baby tigers under her care and along with 3 tiny piglets is nursing the tigers as though she were their mum. She loves those cats and they love her back. 

Unbelieving, wide-eyed tourists pressed their noses up to the cage to get a better look. As they moved on to the next cage they were in for another surprise, as there, a great Royal Bengal tigress was lolling on her side and suckling 6 tiny piglets. 

'Momma' tiger Saimai is two years old and as a baby was suckled by a pig until she was 4 months old. This democratic start in life allowed her to form a loving relationship with other pigs and even a dog. Food in the wild,maybe — but at the zoo, tourists who witness these amazing scenes come away with food for thought.

Although these pictures might appear charming and innocent, the AWI noted back in 2004 that there may be a darker side to the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, as press reports stated that Sriracha was under investigation for illegally breeding protected wildlife for commercial export and had been implicated in the sale of a hundred tigers to China (where there is strong demand for tiger body parts for use in traditional Chinese medicines). The AWI also noted that in late 2004 the zoo was closed for a month when between 80 and 100 tigers died or were euthanized due to an avian influenza (probably spread via the raw chicken carcasses fed to the tigers) that swept through the facility. 

(via Snopes)

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