Under fire: Rick Thomas's show has been criticised by the SPCA and animal lovers. *Photo supplied
Under fire: Rick Thomas's show has been criticised by the SPCA and animal lovers. *Photo supplied
Magician Rick Thomas has dedicated his life to his tigers and would not do anything to hurt them.

The Las Vegas entertainer made the claim ahead of his controversial Bermuda shows, adding that he only brings a tiger to the stage “to educate and inform”.

Mr. Thomas, who keeps six tigers in his back yard, said his work helps to save the endangered species.

The conjurer will be on stage in the ‘ultimate tiger encounter show’ at the Fairmont Southampton Resort from February 25 to March 5.

Mr. Thomas has spoken out for the first time about his Bermuda show to try to silence his critics.

Petition

The SPCA and other animal lovers have raised concerns about the welfare of the tiger and whether an exotic animal should be exploited for financial gain.

More than 850 people have signed an online petition asking organizers to reconsider because it “degrades a performing tiger”.

Mr. Thomas said: “Here we go again. It’s always all about the tiger — I have to put up with it wherever I travel.

“It saddens me, it’s a shame that is all people talk about.

“I have given my life to help these animals but the criticism is constant from the overzealous and uneducated.

“They regurgitate the same things over and over again.

“I want to scream and shout how much I do for these animals.”

Mr. Thomas said the tiger would only be on stage for the finale, which will include an educational talk about the animals being under threat.

He added: “It’s not about me utilizing tigers. The tiger won’t be jumping through fire or wearing a tutu.

“No one will see anything bad happening to that tiger. I will simply explain the challenges tigers face and what we can do to help them.”

The tiger featured in the show will be Mr. Thomas’s eight-year-old, captive-bred white tiger, called Kaos because he was “so mischievous and such a handful” as a cub.

Kaos will be brought to Bermuda on a cargo plane.

Mr. Thomas said travelling with a tiger was “a simple process” and Kaos would not be sedated for the journey.

The public are “in absolutely no danger” because the tiger will remain in “a plenty large enough” cage at all times.

It will be a double cage, with one cage within another, and a security guard will be on watch at all times.

Mr. Thomas will not be bringing his own vet. He said: “Any vet can handle it, treating a tiger is no different to a cat or dog.”

Mr. Thomas, a father of five, has been breeding and working with tigers for almost 20 years.

He was trained to work with the animals for about two years and has a U.S. Exhibitor’s Permit, which means he is required by law to show them to the public.

Mr. Thomas has six tigers in the back yard of his home in Las Vegas.

He has spent $2 million on a two-acre habitat for them.

The tigers, which live for 15 to 20 years, are all bottle fed as cubs and are treated “way better than most humans.”

Mr. Thomas refuses to release his tigers into the wild because he fears they would be killed for their fur and body parts.

He said: “If our tigers were in the wild, they would already be dead and be in the history books. I have given my life to these animals. If it wasn’t for people like me, these animals would not be here.

“Tigers are worth $100,000 a piece when dead.

“Until people stop killing tigers, it is not safe for them to be in the wild.”

Mr. Thomas, who has performed in more than 50 countries, described the show as family-friendly entertainment.

Successful

He said: “The stage will be filled with amazing effects. People will see some of the finest illusions in the world.

“It’s one of the most successful shows in Vegas and I’m bringing it to Bermuda.

“I don’t have to do this, I could easily stay in Vegas, but I want to do this for the people of Bermuda.

“This is a big deal for the island, it’s going to be a breath of fresh air. This isn’t minor, this is major.” n

To book tickets to the show, visit www.premiertickets.bm or call 278-1500. For more information about Rick Thomas, visit www.rickthomasshowbermuda.com.