Dreamworld has responded to allegations of animal cruelty levelled against two of its handlers, saying an Instagram video showing one staff member pull a tiger’s tail and another smacking the creature’s face has been misconstrued as needlessly violent.
The clip, which was uploaded this morning, shows two men interacting with the tiger inside its enclosure.
Commenters discussed the seemingly violent nature of the encounter.
One said “these guys need to be sacked immediately, & prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” and another added “this is disgusting & shows a blatant disregard for the life of the animal.”
Animal rights advocates have also given their take. Ben Pearson of World Animal Protection said the footage captured a “shocking insight into animal welfare practises at the venue.”
In a statement to 9 News, PETA said “pulling a tiger by the tail and punching them in the head is appalling, unjustifiable cruelty.”
However, Dreamworld disputes those viewpoints, saying the handler’s actions were a necessary and appropriate reaction to the tiger’s behaviour.
“The tigers in this video were showing antagonistic behaviour and needed separating before they had an opportunity to hurt each other,” Dreamworld told 9 News.
The park said “open hand taps” are a useful strategy to “refocus” tigers demonstrating antagonistic behaviour, and that “the intervention of our handlers prevented a situation that may have escalated.”
Dreamworld said the handlers explained their actions to guests immediately afterwards.
The park currently oversees 11 tigers, and over 500 animals in total across its Gold Coast premises.