Maybe sticking your head in a crocodiles mouth is a bad idea. Maybe when that crocodile decides to chomp down on your relatively tender skull, he’s trying to tell you something.
A while back I wrote about cobra shows in Thailand and my unease with the way that the animals in these shows were being treated. Now it seems that a crocodile in a similar tourist show has decided to give his trainer the middle finger the only way a crocodile can–by clamping his jaws down on the trainer’s head.
Fortunately, the trainer was relatively unharmed, but the fate of the crocodile is probably not on such solid ground.
What needs to be pointed out is this: shows such as these aren’t attended by locals. They are solely for tourists, hoping to get a glimpse of some exotic Thai wildlife. We, the tourists, are funding this. In the past few years I’ve seen some breathtaking creatures, but the most meaningful and authentic experiences have been in the wild.
I’m just as guilty of participating in the business after attending a cobra show. Had I known what I was going to see, I would have declined to buy a ticket. A good reason to ask questions before going to any show involving animals. Or humans, for that matter. And let’s not forget that the man with his head in the crocodile’s mouth may not have many other career prospects. Thailand is still a developing nation. The man sticking his head in the crocodiles mouth, or squaring off with a cobra may have few other options for income.
Any show involving a wild animal performing in any way is probably going to be exploitative. This doesn’t just go for Thailand, but anywhere. But its easy when travelling to get caught up in palm trees and sugarcane fields, with strange and wonderful foods and customs, and the desire to watch a show involving dangerous animals. It’s part of the mythos of Asia, though it’s long past time we grew out of these infantile expectations and started seeing Asia for the real beauty that it holds.