Tiger TemplePublished September 2, 2008
The Sacred Temples of Thailand are legendary. They are famous for their beauty and the peaceful quiet, which surrounds them.
The Tiger Temple is one that is promoted as an extraordinary place where the bond between the world's largest cats and human beings is formed. Based on the publicity provided by the Temple we are led to believe that the tigers themselves appear to have accepted Buddhism as a spiritual belief. It is said that the tigers attend meditation sessions with the monks, deferring to them bowing at their feet, seeming to have accepted them as their "gurus." The monks believe that these tigers, rescued after poacher shot their mothers, are, in fact, Buddhist monks reborn in the body of a tiger.
The Tiger Temple, Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, (in Thai), according to the abbot associated with it, opened in 1999, receiving its first tiger cub, found by villagers, but which died several days later. Slowly over time, other tiger cubs were given to the temple, when their mothers were killed by poachers, and by people who adopted cubs as pets but who could no longer handle the growing felines or felt pressured to give up their tiger “pets.” As of 2007, there have been 21 cubs born at the Temple. Presently there are about 12 adult tigers and 4 growing cubs residing at the sanctuary.
Much of the publicity about the tiger Temple gives the impression that tigers roam freely around the grounds and mingle safely with visitors to the Temple. At one time, that was true; however, this practice has been stopped. With the growing numbers of visitors, the tigers live in cages most of the time to protect the vistors.The tigers are walked on leashes once a day to a nearby quarry. Tigers that sit in the canyons are always chained. The big cats are fed a diet of cooked chicken, beef and dry cat food. The Monks, concerned about Bird flu infecting the tigers, ensure that all chicken is well boiled, as is all the meat served, to prevent the tigers from ever developing a taste for blood. The staff carefully watch the tigers for any signs of agitation, and tourists who are afraid of them are encouraged to remain at a distance.
For those planning a trip to Thailand, the Temple opens its doors to visitors at 1:00 PM. The tigers are returned to their enclosures later in the afternoon. Donation boxes are placed strategically around the compound, and if a photograph posing with a tiger is appealing, a donation is requested on the spot.
However, while appearing to be a compassionate and protective environment for the tigers, not all is peaceful within the walls of the Tiger Temple. Serious accusations have been made against the Temple. Conservation Organizations claim that the tigers are not rescued wild tigers at all, but are obtained through illegal trading with black market tiger farms. They also claim that the biggest reason for the Temple's existence is a profit-making endeavor, not one that is devoted to the protection of the tigers. Additionally, some visitors claim that they have observed abuse of tigers at the temple, which motivated a thorough investigation.
At the forefront of the controversy is the Care for the Wild International (CWI), which revealed proof of illegal tiger trade, cruelty to animals, fake conservation claims, dangerous tiger breeding practices and risks to visitor safety. The information provided by CWI was based on observations made between 2005 to the present. CWI is urging the Thailand’s Department of Public Parks to move the tigers to a sanctuary. Their investigative report released on June 20 of this year can be found by visiting: http://www.wspa-international.org/whoarewe/wspaasia/tiger_temple_thailand.aspx
The Tiger Temple, as presented by the monks and staff at the facility certainly paints a different picture of their practices. They certainly do not seem to be validated by the CWI and other conservation organizations. I sadly must say that I am bitterly disappointed about The Tiger Temple's romantic publicity. It seems that it must be taken with a grain of salt, from where I sit. I worry about the tigers, most of all, who are becoming endangered throughout the world.
Watch the video from Thailand Film and see the beautiful big cats.
Have you formed an opinion about these two opposite claims about Tiger Temple? Leave a comment and let us know.
- Filed Under: News & Blogs