Kaos the white tiger was brought on stage at the end of the magic show but remained in its cage. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Kaos the white tiger was brought on stage at the end of the magic show but remained in its cage. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
FRIDAY, MAR. 4: If ticket sales to the Rick Thomas Magic Show and Tiger Encounter are anything to go by, vast swathes of Bermuda residents are comfortable with the use of animals for entertainment and educational purposes.

Six of the nine shows held at the Mid Ocean Amphitheatre were sold out while other weekday shows also proved extremely popular.

However, Mr. Thomas says that despite extensive international tours with the show, he has never experienced as much negativity towards it as he did in Bermuda — most prominently from the SPCA.

He says that while the magic tricks in his show are purely for entertainment, as soon as the tiger comes on stage at the end, he “becomes a conservationist” who educates the masses about the perils the endangered species faces.

“The only thing we can do is educate,” he said. “We need to stop people, specifically from Asia, using the tiger for medications.

“If we have to do it like this, where we are implementing it into a production to get the message across, then that’s what we have to do.

“The Japanese people will watch it and be entertained and I will step forward and say, ‘oh by the way, there are other alternative ways of enjoying your life without ruining the tiger’.”

Mr. Thomas’s last tour included 28 dates in Japan, each drawing about 1,000 people.

“We turned away around 10,000 (people) — what did they want to see? The show with the tiger. What did we give them at the end of it? A list of all the medications that they use tigers for and what we suggest they do in reverse.”

Director of the SPCA Kim Sherlaw was invited to attend the show but declined on the grounds that she had received insufficient information from Mr. Thomas to show the educational value would outweigh the performance aspect of using a tiger.

She said: “After Mr. Thomas’s commentary in the daily paper (including a comment that naysayers should stay in and have a nice cup of tea) and meeting him in person, the SPCA’s viewpoint was confirmed that The Rick Thomas Show is a Las Vegas act and created for entertainment and profit.

“To indicate otherwise or to bill the act with a concentration on education may simply be to placate animal welfare concerns.”

The SPCA went on to say that it is opposed to use of the exhibition of animals where injury, suffering and distress is likely to be caused but did not indicate that this was the case in the Rick Thomas show.

An invitation to the show was also extended to Government veterinarian Jonathan Nisbett who visited the tiger on several occasions to check for the condition of the animal as well as the safety to the public. He said he had seen no signs of distress such as repetitive behaviour, pacing or staring off.

He also accepted an invitation to the show. He described the use of animals in shows as “a double-edged sword”.

“The tiger is a very small part of the overall show, I don’t think it is a top priority.

“It adds to the draw but then presents the opportunity for education as well — it can light a spark.

“It sparked a lot of interest and questions from the audience and he is very open in his answers. 

“He speaks about the genetic mutation, how white tigers came to be, the poaching — the evil things that people do. It mentions how many are in captivity and how many (tigers) are around the world.”

The animals in Mr. Thomas’s show are the result of captive breeding over generations — some 50 years.

There are programmes to release captive tigers into the wild but the problem of poaching is still rife.

The World Wildlife Federation estimates there are 3,200 left in the wild. It says the only way to secure future generations is to seek collaborations with governments, local communities and other partners to bring an end to poaching and habitat loss.


Review: The Magic of Rick Thomas and The Ultimate Tiger Encounter

The Rick Thomas Magic Show opened with four slender girls dancing around in cabaret-style outfits, Las Vegas style.

Sheets were whipped around the stage and suddenly Mr. Thomas appeared, sitting on a big, shiny motorcycle elevated on a platform.

He began making birds appear and disappear, three, four, five of them — who knows where they’d been kept?

These tricks we’ve seen before, just like we’ve seen the magician’s assistant being cut in half. But this showman didn’t cut his assistant in half — he cut her into about eight pieces and separated all the small boxes, with her hands and feet sticking out. It was bizarre to say the least —like the trick where he spun another assistant’s head around and around, seemingly independent of her covered body.

This part of the show was all about the glitz and the glamour — big smiles, flashing teeth, sexy little dresses and tricks after mind-bending tricks.

But despite the excitement, the anticipation for the key moment was almost palpable— ‘when will the tiger come out?’.

The show was billed as The Magic of Rick Thomas and The Ultimate Tiger Encounter and Show but anyone expecting the tiger to do tricks would have been disappointed.

Bermuda law stipulates that the animal remain in its cage, which didn’t make for the most fascinating viewing. True, there were gasps of amazement when the beast first emerged on stage because what a beauty it was — 460lbs of pure majesty. Mr. Thomas reeled off some interesting facts about tigers and a couple of minutes later, the beast was gone.

Mr. Thomas invited the audience back after the short intermission for more questions and to get their pictures taken next to the tiger but only around about a third of them returned. Rather embarrassingly, the tiger emptied its bowels into its cage and had to be wheeled off to be cleaned.

During the session Mr. Thomas talked about how only 1,000 tigers remain in the wild; how captive tigers live twice the age of wild tigers and the stringent U.S. laws he must abide by to keep his six tigers, who live in multi-million-dollar enclosures.

Sandys Rotary brought the show to Bermuda to help raise money for charities.