The general idea of tiger parks in Asia is their poor treatment of beautiful animals, including badly maintained facilities, drugging the tigers up to the gills to make them placid and over paying tourists to take photographs which they can later parade on social media, further promoting these horrible places.
I’m happy to say the Dong Bei Tiger Park in Harbin didn’t seem to follow this trend and instead boasted facilities to help upkeep and breed these magnificent cats in order to release them back into the wild. Before reaching the tiger park we had the pleasure of taking the cable grab over the frozen Songhua River, getting to see more of the wonderful views of Harbin.
Although it was taken through a muggy cable car window, the view was still pretty cool and once we reached the other side of the river we were able to get another look.
Upon our entrance to the park we were met with a price list which showcased all the food which could be fed to the tiger’s with the keepers permission.
Shortly after purchasing tickets we were entering a mini van with barred windows, prepared to enter ‘The Tiger Zone’. I was ready for two scenarios:
1)This park would in fact be another Asian circus for the mistreatment of animals.
2) There would be one or two tigers within squinting distance.
What we found was a Jurassic Park type set up. A large open space secured with large fencing and electric gates between each section. As we drove through the grassy surroundings of each area, tigers could be seen everywhere; eating, playing, and chasing birds (or in some instances chasing the van of twelve tourists which we were sitting in).
We saw some of the tigers in areas that were less than spacious, but it seemed the animals were on some sort of time rotation, so each of them got some time to play in the snow.
Before leaving to hunt for a taxi (which were most difficult to locate in this area) we returned to the heated tourist information for hopefully regain some feeling into our frozen bodies. Inside was a tiger cub, who had earlier been energetically trotting about his playpen, but was now sleeping peacefully in the arms of one of the workers.
Seeing my interest, the worker quickly asked would I like to pay fifty kuai (about six euro) to hold the cub, which I declined, asking instead could I just pet the sleeping feline. I thought the keeper would try to charge me for rubbing the little cub’s head, but he didn’t, instead chatting to me about the tiger, who was a one month old male, he told me.
Soon others crowded around the sleeping animal, disturbing him from his slumber. He was quickly up on all fours, working up as much of a growl as a four week old cub could manage, which only made everyone fawn over him further.
We paid 199 kuai (about 25 euro) into the park which included the mini van around the place followed by ambling around the outdoor tunnels which ran through various parts of the park.
Seeing the tigers up close certainly did nothing but increase the childhood jealousy which many of us girls experience for Aladdin’s Jasmine- not only because of her size four well tanned and toned body, luscious black locks and romance with a beautiful and mysterious Middle Eastern man who has his own genie with a flare for music, but because her pet and best friend is a creature who, it turns out, is every bit as slick and majestic in real life as Disney makes him out to be.