Two handlers at an Australian wildlife park have caused outrage after being filmed hitting a tiger on the head and pulling it by the tail.
Footage of the two staff members mistreating the tiger was posted on Instagram on Thursday with commenters dubbing it “cruel” and "disgusting".
However, Dreamworld defended the handlers’ actions saying that it mirrored the way tigers treated one another in the wild.
Laura Weyman-Jones, spokesperson for animal charity Peta, told Daily Mail Australia: “Pulling a tiger by the tail and punching them in the head is appalling, unjustifiable cruelty.
“Tigers are meant to roam far and wide, not to spend their lives in enclosures being gawked at by strangers and bullied by staff.
“Captivity is certainly no dream world for tigers.”
But in a statement to 7 News Melbourne the wildlife park said: “The care and welfare of our tigers and all our wildlife family is paramount.”
It went on to say: “The media commentary to the circumstance misrepresents the context of what was occurring in the brief footage. The handler’s actions to refocus Akasha were explained to guests immediately after the tigers were separated.
“The tigers in this video were showing antagonistic behaviour and needed separating before they had an opportunity to hurt each other.
“Open hand taps to the facial area is the safest way to refocus tigers who are challenging each other and this is consistent with the way in which tigers communicate with each other in similar situations.”
The Instagram post came a matter of days after the one-year anniversary of the Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy at the park in which four were killed.
On 25 October 2016 four adults and two children were on the ride when it malfunctioned and the group died.
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