The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Thailand
The Tiger Temple
The infamous Thailand Tiger Temple is located at Kanchanaburi, a couple of hours drive from Bangkok. It is very popular with visitors to Thailand and many people end up visiting either directly or as part of a combination tour. Some visitors actually make the trip to Thailand specifically to visit the Tiger Temple!
Many people are thrilled by the prospect of close contact with a big cat and so having a photograph taken next to a large tiger is an opportunity which few fail to miss. Such visits are generally short and the cocktail of emotions generated by adrenaline, exotic location and new experiences tends to cloud judgement as to what is really happening here. People will usually read and believe the first story they see in print and the Tiger Temple is a fairy story. A fabrication.
The whole junked up story has not been helped by the likes of 'Animal Planet' which, whilst making good television dresses the whole bad practice as something wonderful.
The Tiger Temple gets a lot of 'good' press because the people doing the reporting are actually ignorant of what they are reporting about. They ramble on about conservation and breeding programmes without understanding either. It is actually difficult to be critical of what is going on without being seen to be somehow criticising some Buddhist principle. Most Thai people would not dare to speak out as this would be to offend a monk or the abbot. The temple is not popular with all Buddhists who see it as not in line with Theravada principles.
The Temple claims to have consulted with experts in Tigers and invited them to give advise and educate the staff. Why is it that not one of these 'experts' is prepared to stand up and be counted.
The Tiger Temple has its own web site. It is even more commercial than most commercial web sites. This Temple, or the 'Foundation' behind it are after money and nothing else. There is no real care or concern or even understanding of the animals they keep. One wonders about the 'Foundation' and who they consist of. I believe a clue may be found in the links from the Tiger Temple web site. Not unexpectedly one finds that Sri Racha Tiger Zoo is there, the so called 'Dolphin Sanctuary' too and the Million Year Stone Park. Animal exploiters all. Consider that up to a thousand or so tourists visit the temple each afternoon. Without even considering how much each one pays to get into the temple area there is the fifty or so US Dollars for a photograph with a tiger. Big money is being made here. It IS commercial.
The origins of the tigers at the temple as told appears a probable story. The first animals, cubs, were rescue animals which were reared by monks within the temple. The intention had been to release them back to the wild once mature. The story is only partially true however. A few cubs were rescued but others were actually purchased from an animal dealer. Very quickly someone realised that visitors to the temple were thrilled to be close to the tigers and prepared to pay for the pleasure. So there on started the exploitation of the tigers. Commercial greed took the place of a fictional story of charitable care. The Tigers had to stay.
Whatever the story it never really was a realistic option to release hand reared humanised tigers back into the wild but it makes a very nice story for that gullible element of the press.
The worst news of all was that in mid August 2009 that the Tiger Temple was granted permission to become a zoo. See: Tiger Temple becomes a Zoo. There is a certain element who is delighted about this change in status. It makes a mockery of the fact that previously the Tiger Temple claimed to be a Sanctuary. It is all in a name though. Wild animals in captivity.
That such a consideration should be even thought about let alone actually granted defies common sense.
There is perhaps a notion that tigers have been kept at the temple for hundreds of years, that it is a long established protocol. Nothing could be further from the truth. The first tiger cub to arrive was in 1999...just ten years ago.
Thrilled to be so close to a Tiger
There is actually a Facebook cause called Ban The Tiger Temple! which I believe is well worth your joining. I did as soon as I learnt of its existence. Okay I may not have the same political views of many of the members who I suspect may well be 'anti-zoo' but here I agree. This awful place, this conservation lie must be exposed and closed. Sadly the Tiger Temple is given credibility by the visits of uninformed politicians and the likes of the popular but equally uninformed Craig Busch, formerly of Zion Wildlife Gardens.
The Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand also have their own Facebook page which is well worth looking at. In particular the extensive damning correspondence surrounding the subject Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi is nothing but a sordid theme park...
Pretty girl and Tiger
Letter from the International Tiger Coalition
On October 7th 2008 the International Tiger Coalition wrote to Mr Chaleermsak Wanichsombat, the Director General of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to express their concerns over their 'concern about the captive breeding and trans-border movements of tigers by the Tiger Temple at Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanaburi and about the facility's claims to support tiger conservation.'
It is interesting to note that the International Tiger Coalition is made up of an alliance of some 39 organisations but does not include SEAZA, the one regional organisation that should be taking a prominent role in any discussion. The Coalition does include BIAZA, IFAW, BORN FREE, Association of Zoos & Aquariums, WAZA, WSPA, ZSL and many others.
The letter from the International Tiger Coalition goes on to say:
' Our second concern relates to tiger breeding at the Wat Pa Luangta Bua facility, which has no credible connection with accredited conservation breeding programmes that are deemed to support the survival of wild tigers. You may be aware that in 2007, CITES adopted Decision 14.69 which states that “Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers; tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives”. It should first be noted that circumstances in which the release of captive-bred tigers to the wild can make a contribution to the conservation of wild tigers are virtually non-existent.'
The Coalition is genuinely concerned and goes on to say:
' We welcome your plans to commission genetic testing of the tigers held at Wat Pa Luangta Bua to determine their subspecies and pedigree. However, we note that whatever the results of these tests may be, breeding of tigers ex situ makes no contribution whatsoever to wild tiger conservation unless the animals are included in a multi-institutional conservation breeding programme carefully designed and managed so as to generate conservation benefits. Wat Pa Luangta Bua does not have the facilities, the skills, the relationships with accredited zoos, or even the desire to manage its tigers in an appropriate fashion. Instead, it is motivated both in display of the tigers to tourists and in its illegal trading of tigers purely by profit. We appeal to you most strongly to remove all tigers from Wat Pa Luangta Bua and transfer them to a
more suitable and safe sanctuary facility, where the animals can be accommodated and cared for appropriately and that will not allow for additional breeding.'
Reply to the International Tiger Coalition
Long way to nowhere
Going by the answer to the Tiger Coalition and the reply in February 2009 it seems that, going by this 'zoo' decision in mid August 2009 that we have got nowhere. In fact the situation is worse than it was before. I suppose that with a 'zoo' license it is only a matter of time that they obtain white tigers to add to their menagerie.
I have had a lot of private correspondence surrounding this awful place and am convinced that Thailand must close it down if it is to be seen to be serious about conservation issues.
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