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Dreamworld: Tiger Island

Tiger Island Logo

Tiger Island is an attraction at a theme park in Australia called Dreamworld. It features a large grassy area separated by a wide moat and fence, a tiger-themed cafe and shop, a play pen and a den both separated by glass for visitors to observe cubs. Tiger handlers are on the island with the full-grown tigers throughout the day and encourage them to perform tricks at the shows, which take place on the island. Tricks include getting the tigers to sit up, stand, climb trees and leap across logs and platforms for milk and meat rewards.

As a local, I have been going to Tiger Island since it first opened. During that time, I have seen many different tigers, including bengal and sumatran. I’ve seen cubs born and the tiger shows gradually evolving into the leaping, climbing, music-accompanied spectacle that they are today.

When I was studying screen production at uni, Dreamworld even allowed me and my crew the chance to interview some of the handlers in our ten minute documentary about the relationship between the humans and their wild cat charges.

At the heart of Tiger Island is a strong desire to make a difference in wild cat conservation. There is a collection box at the stairs where people crowd in to watch the show. What a great way to spread the word about the plight of tigers, at the most sophisticated, fun and exciting theme park in Australia!

About Dreamworld
Dreamworld is centrally located just 40 minutes from Brisbane and 20 minutes north of Surfers Paradise and is open from 10am to 5pm every day except Christmas Day (25/12) and ANZAC Day (25/4).

About Tiger Island
Opened in 1995, Tiger Island is the largest interactive tiger facility outside the United States and is an educational conservation-based attraction that actively works to save tigers in the wild.  The island offers 1600sqm of uninterrupted views of the Big Cats playing with their handlers from across a moat.

In the specifically designed habitat of Tiger Island, the tigers and their handlers co-exist peacefully without the constraints of cages.  Dreamworld’s tigers are trained (never ‘tamed’) by establishing and maintaining a strong bond, based on trust, respect and affection, between the handlers and tigers.

Currently home to six rare Bengal tigers, six Sumatran Tigers and two cougars, the stars of the show are undoubtedly the three newest residents, Shanti, Jaya and Ndari.  Born at Tiger Island on June 9, 2008 as part of an international breeding program, the girls joined their adopted sister, Sali.  

A percentage of funds raised from all Tiger Walks and Tiger Photos is donated directly to saving tigers in the wild.

Tiger Walks are incredibly popular and advanced bookings are necessary.  

If you came to this site for information about the documentary entitled Tiger Island, please be advised that this program is not available for purchase (as advised by Dreamworld on 29/11/2010). 

Click here to visit the official Dreamworld website.

Dreamworld News

Robbie and Mohan love each otherDreamworld Images

Dreamworld Videos

Click here for video downloads from Dreamworld and Taronga Zoo

More information about Dreamworld

Dreamworld's Tiger Island is a unique animal attraction where humans are constantly interacting with the tigers in a public display. Dreamworld places great emphasis on the relationship between its tigers and their handlers. On 2 February 2005, one of the tiger handlers shared some of his experiences with the public at Tiger Island. He said that before he came to Dreamworld, he mainly worked with marine wildlife such as dolphins and seals, which would do tricks without the kind of relationship the tigers require. He said that the dolphins and seals do know who you are, but as long as you have a piece of fish in your hand, they will do almost anything you like. With tigers, in order for the handlers to have a semblance of control over them, they must have a special bond with the animals. The tigers at Dreamworld have been hand-reared from as early as six weeks of age so that they are used to human interaction. When new handlers are introduced to the current family of cats at Tiger Island, it can take 12 months before that handler is ready to enter the tigers' domain and expect to be relatively safe.

Dreamworld also houses two female mountain lions, Inca and Sierra. Sierra is the bigger of the two and had her food intake reduced early 2005 because she was a little overweight (and unable to jump for guests in the daily cougar presentation). Dreamworld has no plans to breed cougars, mainly due to the fact that cougars are not endangered. In some parts of Canada they have reached plague proportions. Dreamworld's cougars are there to provide a more up close and personal wild cat experience. Although they are still magnificent creatures, their smaller size and gentle temperament makes them an easier animal to walk around the park.

Dreamworld's Cats

Cougars: Inca and Sierra

Inca and Sierra  Jumping
(Photos courtesy Dreamworld.)

The original six bengal tigers: Mohan, Samara, Bakkar, Rakhan, Kyla and Jai

  Mohan - Feb 2005  Rakhan - Feb 2005

The offspring of Mohan and Samara: Sita, Taj, Rama, Sultan

Sita - Feb 2005  Taj - Feb 2005

Rama - Feb 2005  Sultan - Feb 2005

New blood introduced in 2001: Kato and Kaasha

Kato - Feb 2005

first sumatran tiger introduced in 2004: Soraya

(Photo courtesy Dreamworld.  Click here to view larger)


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History of Tiger Island

Tiger Island was opened in June 1995 with six young bengal tigers, whicher were originally raised in the USA by Jonathan Minor and Patrick Martin-Vegue. These six tigers were three pairs of siblings:

Samara (gold) and Bakkar (gold) - born 31/12/94

Jai (white) and Rakhan (gold) - born 22/12/94

Kyla (white) and Mohan (white) - born 02/11/94

In December 1996, Kyla died from a bacterial infection. This particular bacteria is known to be a killer of young captive tigers overseas (Roberts, G., Sydney Morning Herald, 15/05/97).

On 23 October 1998, Samara gave birth to four cubs, Taj (the first white tiger born in Australia), Sultan, Rama and Sita. Sita also has a unique colouring, known as tabby. It is neither orange nor white, but somewhere in between. The father of the cubs was Mohan.

In 2000, the Australian Financial Review reported that 'the introduction of Bengal tigers to Dreamworld five years ago proved to be a cost-effective winner and far cheaper than new rides, which demand a minimum investment of $15 million' (MacDermott, Kathy, Australian Financial Review, 18/07/2000).

16 September 2001 saw the death of Jai due to a kidney infection. Dreamworld's vetinarian team performed a kidney transplant on the tigress after removing it from her brother Rakhan. Initially there were signs of a good recovery, but then complications set in and Jai died suddenly after a series of seizures.

Two bengal tiger cubs were born on 24 October 2001 at Bullen's Wildlife Sanctuary in southern New South Wales. Kaasha and Kato were transferred to Dreamworld to form part of a cooperative breeding program.  Unfortunately Kaasha perished from a serious illness in 2002.

2 February 2005: Dreamworld are currently hoping that their six year old female 'tabby' Sita will accept three year old Kato as a mate within the next year or so. Unfortunately Sita shows no signs of affection toward Kato as yet and is in fact very agressive toward him. When Sita comes into season, the tiger handlers expect that she will be mounted by a number of the male tigers and they hope that she will 'turn a blind eye' to such an approach from Kato.

Because most of the male tigers are related to her, it would not be wise to allow her to have their offspring. Instead, the handlers explained that they will have to hold her tail down if she is mounted by any of the male tigers other than Kato. As a female tigress is prone to turning around and attacking the male tiger afterwards, the handlers will have to be quick in getting out of the way!

17 May 2005: Success!  Kato and Sita are now mating.  It is hoped that Sita will give birth to Dreamworld's second in-house litter of tiger cubs.

Taj painting13 July 2005:
A few weeks ago, Dreamworld participated in a fundraiser for Red Nose Day.   Click here to read about it on News.

02 September 2005:
Taj is getting his paws wet—with paint that is— for a conservation project.   Click here to read about it on News.