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"Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi".

I had booked my ticket to Thailand and travelled half way across the world to go and live with monks and tigers for four weeks! I have to confess to finding it very difficult to write this without resorting to profanity, sarcasm or overly emotive language. I hope that by getting this onto this and a few other websites I can play some minor part in providing information and hopefully doing something about stopping what is going on in the name of Buddhism and Conservation at this "Sanctuary" for wild animals or at the very least stopping tourists from supporting this. I applied to volunteer at the Tiger Temple because I wanted to be a part of the promised tigers roaming free with Buddhist monks experience having an interest in both wild animals and Buddhism. Although I understood that there was probably an element of marketing speak due to the fund raising slant in the promotion of the Temple and the mysticism of the whole experience, I thought that, due to my research on the Temple website and other pages and blogs my expectations were realistic in terms of how these animals lived and were treated. The animal cruelty and abuse at the Temple was blatant and obvious to me from the minute I arrived. (The first animal I came across was at the Volunteer s House, a young and very distressed female cat who was engorged and in agony with too much milk. Her five 2 week old kittens had been removed from her by Temple staff and we were told - taken to a Cat Temple . I was surprised and upset to come across an animal in such distress as this was not how I would imagine a sanctuary would treat any animal). I arrived mid morning and on my first day one of the other volunteers who d been there for a few weeks took me around to show me the captive animals. (There is also a large number of farm type animals goats, cows, horses, chickens - and water buffalo, deer, wild boar and peacocks roaming around the Temple grounds.) The first cage I came across was a large chicken wire cage under a tree with a hawk in it. The bird apparently had a broken wing. It is never released from the cage. Then there was a row of concrete cages with single adult tigers, one with the baby tigers, and at the end of the row (with a large generator placed in front of it so one couldn t really see what was in this dark, dingy dungeon) a leopard who has, apparently, not been let out of the cage since she arrived there 8 years ago. My next visit was to a large, double sized concrete cage almost out of view of all the other cages, where they keep two very young (I would estimate them to be about 6 months old) lion cubs. The cage is bare but for a concrete bowl of water. There is nowhere for them to shelter or hide (they are clearly terrified of humans) and certainly nothing for them to play with no tyres or branches or any sort of toys. We then saw all the other tigers either on their own or with two in a cage. Some of the tigers are never released from their concrete cages. But others, on average 8 tigers a day (usually the same better behaved and better looking tigers not the stroppy ones or those with scars or bloody eyes) are taken into the Canyon to be photographed with tourists. This outing liberates them from their cages for a 10 minute walk on stony gravel to the Canyon, three hours chained by the neck to a ring in the blazing sun, and a 10 minute walk back home to their cages. On their way to and from the canyon the tigers are encouraged to move by being lifted by the base of the tail, shoved and punched. One tiger girl would always walk next to the tiger with a garden hoe in her hand, this she waved in front of the tiger s face or banged on the ground next to it whenever it slowed down or stopped. (The threat was implicit, but the tiger was motivated to move whenever it saw that hoe.) Whilst in the Canyon, the tigers are disciplined with Tiger Balm being rubbed onto their faces, tiger urine being sprayed into their mouths and (surreptitiously, but in full view of tourists) being punched quickly on the face and head. As to whether the animals are drugged or not, I cannot be sure. (Although sedation would surely be the kindest way of helping them get through those long hot hours in the canyon.) The argument against drugging is the expense and, I believe, the difficulty of dosage (meticulously worked out amount of drug to body weight) although local herbs mixed in with their boiled chicken could possibly work. (Some of them were completely unresponsive all the time, even when we visited their cages in the early mornings or in the evenings, and this could possibly imply properly prescribed drugs.) In the Canyon the volunteers are there essentially for crowd control. I felt ashamed at being apparently complicit in the running of this circus - which is really no more than a money making scam where tourists are required to donate B300 to come into a Buddhist Temple (illegal to charge, by the way), and another B1000 for a special photo with a tigers head placed in your lap. This place is operated along the lines of a very badly run zoo with no money - not an animal sanctuary which receives all this money (work it out, an average of 400 people a day and that s on a slow day with, say, very conservatively 50 people paying for photos) from tourists. Much of the money received over the years since the Animal Planet programme has been promoting it (since about 2003, I think) appears to have been (very recently, as in it has just started being built) spent on building a "Buddhist Park Project" which will essentially be an area to accommodate the followers of the Abbot's Teacher when he comes to visit the Temple! The Tiger Island ( for their freedom and return to the forest ) which is apparently the reason we all throw money at the Temple is not yet complete, but seems to be nothing more that an area for tiger cages with a moat built around it so tourists can't actually get at them and see how they live they will still operate the Canyon Photo Circus and, as they will still be hand reared, there is no plan to release tigers back into the wild. Although we could wander around the cages at any time and watch the workers with the tigers, volunteers were now prevented from ever actually being with the tigers (no cleaning of cages, no bathing of babies) and I was only ever really in the same position as the tourists and never able to see how the staff treated the animals when there were no tourists watching them but I feel that the way the tigers cringed away from chains, lengths of hose pipe, the garden hoe and some of the male staff members, that there was certainly discipline metered out behind closed doors . In the morning the baby tigers are brought to the temple where we have breakfast and are allowed to roam around with the monks, staff and volunteers. Every time a cub came anywhere near one of the volunteers, a staff member would yank it away, the babies (four of them are really little, 2 months old and one quite boisterous 5 month old he was tied to a pillar) were pulled around by one leg or held back by the tail, slapped so they skidded across the wooden floor boards, thrown up into the air, their faces held and noses punched, pinched and flicked, they were continuously mauled, teased and tormented. I have to admit that I couldn t stand it for very long and my planned 4 week stay lasted a mere 4 days. There is a flagrant lack of respect and compassion and certainly no love for these tigers. And this lack of feeling clearly gets worse as the animals get older and bigger and stronger. Essentially, the animal welfare laws in South East Asia are not stringent enough to close down this establishment due to the cruelty and abuse that is metered out there (along with the illegal breeding - one tigress is kept with the sole purpose of producing cubs - which are removed from her almost immediately after birth and reared by humans). All we can do in the short term is spread the word to stop tourists from supporting this place. Please boycott the Tiger Temple and report what you have seen to animal welfare organisations like Care for the Wild www.careforthewild.com

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"Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi".

I had booked my ticket to Thailand and travelled half way across the world to go and live with monks and tigers for four weeks! I have to confess to finding it very difficult to write this without resorting to profanity, sarcasm or overly emotive language. I hope that by getting this onto this and a few other websites I can play some minor part in providing information and hopefully doing something about stopping what is going on in the name of Buddhism and Conservation at this "Sanctuary" for wild animals or at the very least stopping tourists from supporting this. I applied to volunteer at the Tiger Temple because I wanted to be a part of the promised tigers roaming free with Buddhist monks experience having an interest in both wild animals and Buddhism. Although I understood that there was probably an element of marketing speak due to the fund raising slant in the promotion of the Temple and the mysticism of the whole experience, I thought that, due to my research on the Temple website and other pages and blogs my expectations were realistic in terms of how these animals lived and were treated. The animal cruelty and abuse at the Temple was blatant and obvious to me from the minute I arrived. (The first animal I came across was at the Volunteer s House, a young and very distressed female cat who was engorged and in agony with too much milk. Her five 2 week old kittens had been removed from her by Temple staff and we were told - taken to a Cat Temple . I was surprised and upset to come across an animal in such distress as this was not how I would imagine a sanctuary would treat any animal). I arrived mid morning and on my first day one of the other volunteers who d been there for a few weeks took me around to show me the captive animals. (There is also a large number of farm type animals goats, cows, horses, chickens - and water buffalo, deer, wild boar and peacocks roaming around the Temple grounds.) The first cage I came across was a large chicken wire cage under a tree with a hawk in it. The bird apparently had a broken wing. It is never released from the cage. Then there was a row of concrete cages with single adult tigers, one with the baby tigers, and at the end of the row (with a large generator placed in front of it so one couldn t really see what was in this dark, dingy dungeon) a leopard who has, apparently, not been let out of the cage since she arrived there 8 years ago. My next visit was to a large, double sized concrete cage almost out of view of all the other cages, where they keep two very young (I would estimate them to be about 6 months old) lion cubs. The cage is bare but for a concrete bowl of water. There is nowhere for them to shelter or hide (they are clearly terrified of humans) and certainly nothing for them to play with no tyres or branches or any sort of toys. We then saw all the other tigers either on their own or with two in a cage. Some of the tigers are never released from their concrete cages. But others, on average 8 tigers a day (usually the same better behaved and better looking tigers not the stroppy ones or those with scars or bloody eyes) are taken into the Canyon to be photographed with tourists. This outing liberates them from their cages for a 10 minute walk on stony gravel to the Canyon, three hours chained by the neck to a ring in the blazing sun, and a 10 minute walk back home to their cages. On their way to and from the canyon the tigers are encouraged to move by being lifted by the base of the tail, shoved and punched. One tiger girl would always walk next to the tiger with a garden hoe in her hand, this she waved in front of the tiger s face or banged on the ground next to it whenever it slowed down or stopped. (The threat was implicit, but the tiger was motivated to move whenever it saw that hoe.) Whilst in the Canyon, the tigers are disciplined with Tiger Balm being rubbed onto their faces, tiger urine being sprayed into their mouths and (surreptitiously, but in full view of tourists) being punched quickly on the face and head. As to whether the animals are drugged or not, I cannot be sure. (Although sedation would surely be the kindest way of helping them get through those long hot hours in the canyon.) The argument against drugging is the expense and, I believe, the difficulty of dosage (meticulously worked out amount of drug to body weight) although local herbs mixed in with their boiled chicken could possibly work. (Some of them were completely unresponsive all the time, even when we visited their cages in the early mornings or in the evenings, and this could possibly imply properly prescribed drugs.) In the Canyon the volunteers are there essentially for crowd control. I felt ashamed at being apparently complicit in the running of this circus - which is really no more than a money making scam where tourists are required to donate B300 to come into a Buddhist Temple (illegal to charge, by the way), and another B1000 for a special photo with a tigers head placed in your lap. This place is operated along the lines of a very badly run zoo with no money - not an animal sanctuary which receives all this money (work it out, an average of 400 people a day and that s on a slow day with, say, very conservatively 50 people paying for photos) from tourists. Much of the money received over the years since the Animal Planet programme has been promoting it (since about 2003, I think) appears to have been (very recently, as in it has just started being built) spent on building a "Buddhist Park Project" which will essentially be an area to accommodate the followers of the Abbot's Teacher when he comes to visit the Temple! The Tiger Island ( for their freedom and return to the forest ) which is apparently the reason we all throw money at the Temple is not yet complete, but seems to be nothing more that an area for tiger cages with a moat built around it so tourists can't actually get at them and see how they live they will still operate the Canyon Photo Circus and, as they will still be hand reared, there is no plan to release tigers back into the wild. Although we could wander around the cages at any time and watch the workers with the tigers, volunteers were now prevented from ever actually being with the tigers (no cleaning of cages, no bathing of babies) and I was only ever really in the same position as the tourists and never able to see how the staff treated the animals when there were no tourists watching them but I feel that the way the tigers cringed away from chains, lengths of hose pipe, the garden hoe and some of the male staff members, that there was certainly discipline metered out behind closed doors . In the morning the baby tigers are brought to the temple where we have breakfast and are allowed to roam around with the monks, staff and volunteers. Every time a cub came anywhere near one of the volunteers, a staff member would yank it away, the babies (four of them are really little, 2 months old and one quite boisterous 5 month old he was tied to a pillar) were pulled around by one leg or held back by the tail, slapped so they skidded across the wooden floor boards, thrown up into the air, their faces held and noses punched, pinched and flicked, they were continuously mauled, teased and tormented. I have to admit that I couldn t stand it for very long and my planned 4 week stay lasted a mere 4 days. There is a flagrant lack of respect and compassion and certainly no love for these tigers. And this lack of feeling clearly gets worse as the animals get older and bigger and stronger. Essentially, the animal welfare laws in South East Asia are not stringent enough to close down this establishment due to the cruelty and abuse that is metered out there (along with the illegal breeding - one tigress is kept with the sole purpose of producing cubs - which are removed from her almost immediately after birth and reared by humans). All we can do in the short term is spread the word to stop tourists from supporting this place. Please boycott the Tiger Temple and report what you have seen to animal welfare organisations like Care for the Wild www.careforthewild.com

Assuming what you have said is true then its shocking. I dont know if you have a particular axe to grind so that before rushing to judgement I would like some independant corroboration of the above. It reminded me of something else I heard from a volunteer at another place. A pretigious place in the UK. He alleged that if the public saw what went on behind closed doors they would be truly shock by the degree of animal abuse and manipulation. Perhaps it goes to show that whereever there is an elemnt of business and profit involved we have to be very very careful about what we support. Is there anybody out there with experience of the place that can say? I myself will do a field trip and report back in a few months but only if no one else can do the same and perform that very valuable service before then. What about it? Anybody know any volunteers who could tell us what goes on?

This should be put under animals and planrts etc and perhaps Bambina could comment upon it?

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I have mixed feelings about your post. I have visited the Tiger Temple and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You apparently have seen some behind the scenes occurrances that the tourists, such as myself, do not get to see.

But based on what I did see, some of your claims are a little exaggerated in my opinion. The tigers are kept in cages and then later taken out by the handlers after their feeding times. The walk to the canyon is only a short distance amd on a typical hard packed dirt path, yes it had stones. I would not characterize it as "stoney gravel". The tourists walk along with the tigers, part of the attraction. This is not a very difficult task as most any overweight, out of shape tourist can handle it. Difficult for a tiger? I don't think so.

The tigers then do lay in the canyon and pose for photos, but each one (sometimes pairs) is shaded by it's own umbrella. Same as the tourists. Not too bad really. I did not see handlers with sticks, or see handlers use any other type of discipline. I do know that these are still wild animals at heart, and any animal display or show I have seen, including elephants, the handler does a certain amount of prodding and pushing. Heck, when you ride a horse you kick it in the sides and pull on leather straps attached to a metal bit in it's mouth. Also sounds cruel when described in this context. My Thai friends cannot stand to see American rodeo because they think it is so cruel.

Your description of fees and paying extra for photos of the tiger with it's head in one's lap is accurate. I did this and found it quite exhilarating. Feeling this tiger lying against you, the heat of it's body and it's breathing, is an experience I will not forget. I questioned the doping issue, and other web sites insist that they are not doped. Just lazy after eating. I don't know for sure.

As for them making money from tourists, what do you expect? It is basically a tourist attraction and not unusual in this country, monks, temple or whatever. The cats I saw are being fed and probably taken better care of than many in makeshift zoos or an attempt to keep them as a pet. Night Safari ring a bell?

I was more concerned with the safety issue myself. Ask Siegfried and Roy. An animal can go wild at any time. I think not only sticks but maybe even a few guns around would be appropriate.

I posted our photos and story on my website; http://www.daearly.com/walking_with_tigers.htm .

You spent more time there and had access to much more of what goes on. I am not discrediting you account, but I would like to see more facts and possible experiences of others before passing judgment. I do not condone mistreatment of any animal but sometimes it depends on the eyes of the beholder.

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When I visited several tourists were sickened by the fact that the tigers were distressed in comaritively small enclosures with nothing else in them. When asked why the monks referred to lack of funds. All the tourists basically laughed. With the funds they get each day it wouldn't be hard to make an effort with the animals' environment and enlargen pens, there are just better things to spend the money on. Shame.

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Silverhawk, you completely miss the point. You're thinking in terms of human comfort (would you want to be in a cage all day?), not the tigers'. His point was not that the walk was not too difficult for a tiger, it was that this is the only time they are allowed out and the rest of the time they are basically in a prison (bare minimum cage) that's worse than a zoo. His point was they don't get to walk around by themselves, but they have just a short 10 minute walk and then are chained up. Think about it a little. The life of these tigers sucks and would be much better in a zoo with at least some trees, etc. and other tigers to play with in a more open area. I think the OP has done an excellent job exposing this operation for what it is: A piss-poor tourist trap that's not even passable as a zoo. I know some zoos have bad records of mistreating animals but you'd hope if this could be shut down and the animals taken to a proper zoo with proper biologists, these animals may have a better life. He was there and saw behind the scenes. You merely went there as a tourist and you're clouding your vision because you bought into the tourist experience they wanted to sell you and you couldn't see it for the truth.

And, OP, they cannot be released into the wild after being in captivity for so long, they'd die very quickly.

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I did not make it clear but I'm quoting someone who visited the place and wrote this - but I have hasd serious doubts about this and other animal "attractions in Thailand for several years now.

most of the criticism is from experienced or semi-experienced animal handlers and conservationists and most of the support seems to be from those completely unaware of animal needs and conservation aims and techniques.

Maybe someone with a good grounding in Animal husbandry and conservation could put the case for the Tiger Zoo....

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Silverhawk, you completely miss the point. You're thinking in terms of human comfort (would you want to be in a cage all day?), not the tigers'. His point was not that the walk was not too difficult for a tiger, it was that this is the only time they are allowed out and the rest of the time they are basically in a prison (bare minimum cage) that's worse than a zoo. His point was they don't get to walk around by themselves, but they have just a short 10 minute walk and then are chained up. Think about it a little. The life of these tigers sucks and would be much better in a zoo with at least some trees, etc. and other tigers to play with in a more open area. I think the OP has done an excellent job exposing this operation for what it is: A piss-poor tourist trap that's not even passable as a zoo. I know some zoos have bad records of mistreating animals but you'd hope if this could be shut down and the animals taken to a proper zoo with proper biologists, these animals may have a better life. He was there and saw behind the scenes. You merely went there as a tourist and you're clouding your vision because you bought into the tourist experience they wanted to sell you and you couldn't see it for the truth.

And, OP, they cannot be released into the wild after being in captivity for so long, they'd die very quickly.

Obviously the situation could be much better but I think the OP was overstating the cruelty factor and making it sound intentional. This is Thailand and it is what it is. I would be first in line to help if there was a quick and easy way to build a zoo or a large refuge for the tigers to roam free. It isn't going to happen anytime soon. And as you say, they cannot be released into the wild and I don't believe that was ever stated as their intent.

The OP definitely has more insight than I received from the "tourist experience" and his points well taken (if 100 percent true), but overall I still didn't feel it was that bad. The cages are bad and do not meet western standards, no argument. But what do you do? Boycott the place? Blacklist it? Take away all funding? I don't think that is a solution but would only add to the problem. The tigers I saw looked well fed and healthy, but I am not a vet.

Your dream of shutting it down and taking them to a proper zoo is just that, a dream. Where in Thailand is this proper zoo with proper biologists to take care of them? Sometimes reality sucks!

As the OP now clarifies, he is posting second hand information also. Anyone else actually been there and have some ideas?

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Chiang Mai Zoo. There, I answered your question. It would certainly be better conditions as far as facilities go for the animals. And they wouldn't have to be chained by their necks for three hours so some stupid tourists could have a tiger head put in their lap. I always wanted to go to the tiger temple, but now I think I will give it a miss. So, yes, my personal answer would be to boycott the place. But that's just for myself.

I don't have a dream of taking them to a zoo, but they would certainly be better off if this was done.

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If enough people are aware of the situation a regards animal welfare in Thailand thins WILL change - nowhere is an island and Thailand is no exception. International outrage curbed the underage sex industry and slavery etc it is fair to say that Thailand is out of step with the modern world of its treatment of wildlife and the environment - being a developing country is not an excuse.

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Chiang Mai Zoo. There, I answered your question. It would certainly be better conditions as far as facilities go for the animals. And they wouldn't have to be chained by their necks for three hours so some stupid tourists could have a tiger head put in their lap. I always wanted to go to the tiger temple, but now I think I will give it a miss. So, yes, my personal answer would be to boycott the place. But that's just for myself.

I don't have a dream of taking them to a zoo, but they would certainly be better off if this was done.

Glad I don't get offended easily! :o

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I have also visited this Tiger Temple & found the overall conditions to be distressing for the Tigers, but, have to say saw no evidence of mistreatment.

Does anybody remember the National Geographic documentry about a year ago on this subject? To be fair to the head monk he did say they wanted to purchase more land adjacent to the quarry site which would have given the tigers more 'familiar' environment to be in. However, because of lack of funds was struggling to achieve this aim.

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