In 1995, Dreamworld, on Australia's Gold Coast, acquired six captive-bred Bengal tiger cubs from California and set them up in a large, open public display area, ‘Tiger Island’, modelled on a similar facility in San Francisco, USA.
At Dreamworld, the tigers and a group of dedicated, experienced handlers — two of whom are American, from the San Francisco complex — share everyday life in what is essentially a living educational exhibit. The relationships that now exist between animals and handlers are very close.
The progress of the cubs, born on the 23 October 1998, is being closely monitored and recorded, providing an opportunity to document the development of the young tigers, and their relationships with the handlers and other tigers in the complex.
Our film introduces the adult tigers of Tiger Island and traces the development of the four new cubs, from their birth to their first birthday. On this journey we will find out what is happening to tigers in the wild, and how the new cubs will contribute to the survival of their species.
The job of raising tigers like this, and of handling the adults, is both difficult and dangerous. The animals are not, and never will be, tame. They are simply trained to recognise what is acceptable behaviour towards their human companions, and to other members of their own species.
As part of their daily lives, the adult tigers give demonstrations to show their size, balancing ability, strength and agility. However, whatever the tigers do is according to their own wishes at the time. If the animals don't want to rise on their hind legs for a carton of milk, then they don't. The public is also urged to accept that the tigers will only show activity such as swimming, running and jumping when they feel like it.
The group of tigers at Dreamworld form a valuable resource that will hopefully contribute to the future existence of tigers in the wild. Already, $35,000 raised through Dreamworld's tiger-based activities has been put towards tiger research in Sumatra. It is intended that revenue derived from Tiger Island will continue to support much-needed fieldwork in an effort to save those tigers that remain in the wild.