Tigers About the House: Ep. 1

“Most of the truthtelling in the world is done by children.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Will you lookit the ickle tigers? Will you? Awww…

Ahem. Sorry.

Tigers About the House, a documentary series brought to you by BBC2, feels a little like it should be on CBBC. Obviously, it’s about baby tigers. Baby Sumatran tigers, to be precise, which is important because Sumatran tigers are, apparently, the most endangered tigers in the world. There are five hundred left in the wild, which means that poor Caitlyn, inmate of Australia Zoo and star tiger of Tigers About the House, and her imaginatively-named cubs Spot and Stripe, are under a significant amount of pressure just to survive.

It’s a programme about tiger cubs. We’ve all seen programmes about baby animals in zoos. There’s the anxious first few weeks, there’s cutesy scenes of tigers being cuddled, there’s the bit where the cubs are ill for about a day and everyone’s like, CRISIS! CRISIS ALERT! THE CUBS ARE GOING TO DIE.

And then they get better all by themselves.

But it kind of got me thinking about conservation. You see, Australia Zoo’s policy is apparently to handle their animals as much as possible, so that the public can interact with them and be encouraged to donate or support conservation efforts or whatever. There’s this constant drive towards the greater good, the survival of the species, the conservation of all tigers. The (perfectly healthy) cubs are taken away from their (perfectly healthy) mother because their survival is so important, and are raised in a home environment, among children and dogs and household objects (which gives us the rather juvenile name Tigers About the House).

And I just kept thinking: is this what we want, what we mean by conservation? Is this how we’re going to save the tigers, and at what price? Do we want tigers that are just glorified pets, that are so used to humans that they’ll walk on a lead, that will perform tricks like they’re dolphins at SeaWorld? Is it worth saving them just so they can become carnival attractions?

I don’t think I’ll be watching Tigers About the House again, no matter how cute the cubs. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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