There are not many places in the world where you can touch a fully-grown tiger, but the monks at Tiger Temple Thailand allow you to get up close and personal with their domesticated brood of big cats.
This is promotion for one of the worst kind of abuse of endangered species.
Just a couple of hours drive outside Bangkok in the Kanchanaburi province, not far from the world famous Bridge Over The River Kwai, lies the Tiger Temple of Thailand.
Buddhist monks have (they say) saved the beautiful and endangered tigers from poaching. Instead, they keep these animals in captivity. The Tigers have been a huge tourist attraction, where tourist pay a lot of money to be photographed with the Tigers and tough them. To make this feasible, the tigers are chained and drugged. At the night they become trapped in small cages.
Up to 300 international tourists visit this facility each day, but boosted by the worldwide broadcast of a documentary on Animal Planet, numbers reach almost 900 on busy days.
The videos show clear that the staff is untrained in the handling of the tigers.
Care for the Wild International has investigated the temple..
CWI's Chief Executive Dr Barbara Maas says, "The Temple's popularity is based around claims that its tigers were rescued from poachers and move freely and peacefully amongst the temple's monks, who are actively engaged in conservation work. But this utopian facade hides a sinister reality of unbridled violence and illegal trafficking of tigers between Thailand and Laos."
Approximately 15 tigers live at Temple at any one time. Poor housing, husbandry and cruel handling are systemic throughout the facility. Far from being allowed to roam free, tigers are confined for 20 hours a day away from public view in small, barren concrete cages, measuring 31.5 m2 to 37.3 m2. This falls short of the published minimum of 500m2 for a pair or a mother and her cubs. Staff also routinely beat adult tigers and cubs with poles and metal rods.
As a result, the tigers suffer a catalogue of behavioural and physical problems, including lameness, skeletal deformities and stereotypic behaviour, such as pacing and self-mutilation. These complaints are further exacerbated by malnutrition and poor veterinary care.
The Temple claims to breed tigers for conservation. It does not have a breeding license, but at least ten cubs were born there. With no information about the tigers' subspecies, most if not all offspring are likely to be hybrids. For this reason alone the Temple's tigers are unsuitable for inclusion in a recognised conservation breeding programmes. Another concern is that the release of tigers that are used to human proximity is dangerous and potentially fatal for humans, livestock and the tigers, and so is almost never viable.
CWI recommends that Department of National Parks of Thailand confiscates the Temple’s illegally held tigers and transfers them to a sanctuary facility, where the animals can be accommodated and cared for appropriately. CWI has identified a suitable facility in Thailand and is offering its full support for this operation. If Tiger Temple is not going to fulfil the original promise of providing the tigers with a place to roam free, then the tigers need to be moved as soon as possible.
You can download the report from here: