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:
There are many people around the world who have read Care of the Wild Internationals report, and there are people who have witnessed the abuse and wildlife trade.
Additionally, thousands of members of the public, the tourists and visitors to the Tiger Temple, had seen the condition of the animals and are voicing their concern.
The Tiger Temple, Thailand invited the world media in to look and see what the Temple is all about. It should come as no suprise that this would bring high attention to the Temple. After Animal Planet and various other media interviewed the Abbot and filmed in the Temple, this brought it further into the worlds attention.
With this comes attention from professionals, animal lovers, conservation agencies etc.
We are not critising Thailand in anyway, but the world has come leaps and bounds in the knowledge of how to care for critically endangered species in capitivity. As Thailand is a developing country, the standards for captive carnivores and other animals is lowered, however the Tiger Temple does not meet those lowered standards.
The wildlife trade is a world wide issue, but with only 2500 adult breeding pairs left in the wild, and with knowledge that tiger farming exists, it is a great saddness to know that the Tiger Temple conducts wildlife trade and continues to get away with it.
Thailand has some of the most beautiful creatures on earth, however Thailand has become linked with the word 'wildlife trade' and is now linked to the un natural extinction of tigers and other species. I wish this wasnt true but it is.
We have always respected the Buddhist faith, and know that true Thai Buddhists would never do these things to any creature.
I ask as a person on this earth, that you act immediately and support the efforts of those that are fighting to save the tigers at the Temple, and bring an end to this immediately.
With much respect