Dreamworld says two of its tiger handlers who pulled a big cat by its tail and slapped it on the head were using normal procedures, to stop what could have been a deadly fight erupting.
Video footage of the incident has drawn angry posts from people condemning their behaviour.
However the theme park says grabbing a tiger by the tail is actually a safe and accepted way of separating two animals who were being aggressive.
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Dreamworld said audience members who witnessed the incident were told why the tiger was being handled in such a way.
“Open hand taps to the facial area are the safest way to refocus tigers who are challenging each other,” a spokesperson said.
“The tiger’s tail is one of its strongest parts of the body and the animals themselves as well as their handlers regularly play with the tail.
“Akasha and Kai are both more than 100 kilos and the intervention of our handlers prevented a situation that may have escalated.”