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Thew Tiger Temple - Is It A Travesty?


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First off I have not been to the temple, but have volunteered at two wildlife rescue centers in Thailand and two in the U.S. all four are strongly against exploiting wildlife. What I am posting below was sent to me from WWFT and is what they send to people inquiring about volunteering there, especially when the Tiger Temple is mentioned.

My understanding is that there are strong efforts being made to take the animals away from the abbot and find more humane homes for them.

Something about the infamous tiger temple:

After hearing many complaints about the place from tourists and volunteers (we have even had volunteers come here after they left the tiger temple sick after a few days of volunteering), we visited the tiger temple with representative of international animal welfare / wildlife conservation organisations earlier this year. Short summary:

There are animals locked up in tiny, un-enriched enclosures.

Tigers are showing signs of malnourishment, e.g. sight defects. They have been fed on dogfood and chicken - an incomplete diet for felines.

Tigers are reported to be beaten and abused into submission (negative-reinforcement techniques), in order that they can be handled and paraded in front of the abbott and the tourists.

The monks / handlers do not have any training or equipment for tranquilising animals and therefore have no form of emergency control if a tiger goes bezerk. They rely heavily on negative reinforcement to keep the tigers docile, but there is always the risk of an animal getting out of control.

Tigers are chained up outside for several hours without shade or drinking water so that tourists can take photos of themselves with the tigers.

The initial 4 tigers have rumoured to have actually been bought by the abbott from an illegal wildlife trader, mixed species have been interbred and there are now at least 17 tigers from a limited gene-pool. The conservation value of this is more than questionable.

The tigers have been officially confiscated by the government, as the abbott has no legal documentation or permit to keep them. However, as the government have no-where else to take care of the animals, they remain under the "care" of the Tiger Temple.

The abbott himself is not open to constructive criticism of his operation or support from organisations wishing to improve the welfare of the animals and safety of the staff/volunteers/tourists.

Approximately 300 tourists pass through each day, each paying a mere $10 entrance fee plus extra fees for "special" photos with the tigers - i.e. approx. $20000 per week is cashed in, excluding further donations, and there is little sign that this is being spent on the welfare of the animals.

Apologies if this sounds harsh, but we like to be hard and to the point. If your aim is to volunteer for an organisation that has a high regard for the welfare of the animals, then we do not recommend the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi. If your aim is however to touch/pet wild animals, take your photo with them and generally exploit them for your own personal enjoyment and experience, then please do not consider applying to us as this behaviour is against our principles. For your information, we also have a campaign against wildlife exploitation in tourism, some information is on our website here: http://www.wfft.org/campaigns.htm

I've just come back from Thailand and just a few weeks ago visited the tiger temple in question. First off, this post above.

Before I clicked the link I noticed that it's 'WFFT" (note the difference in web address) and this whole post seems rather misleading even forgetting that little typo.

Before I go on, I'm not an employee or even live in Thailand. I live in Japan and was simply a tourist in Thailand for 12 days.

To be honest I doubt that email came from WFFT, but it may well have been. One thing I do know is that some of the claims are simply wrong.

As has been mentioned by others, the tigers at Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple were not hit, punched or otherwise mistreated by the staff (in front of us tourists). Could it be happening behind the scenes? Yes. But think carefully about what this suggests.

What would be likely to happen if a human entered a cage with a fully grown adult tiger, reared in captivity or not, and started punching it in the face or poking it with a stick? When we were waiting to get the photos taken and standing in front of the massive outdoor fans keeping a breeze blowing down through the tiger resting area, the staff were always nervous around the tigers and were very strict about what the tourists were doing. We had to be led in by hand, had to be careful not to make sudden movements and the tigers got all the attention from the staff. I have pictures of me sitting with the tigers, with *several* concrete bowls of water dotted about. There are trees planted (albeit not giving much shade from the sun) but the tigers themselves didn't seem bothered much at all by anything. They look healthy and fine. No injuries, no stress. Lazy, sleepy tigers a little on the fat side without a care in the world.

In my opinion, after going there and seeing them, the tigers look just fine and happy as could be. After the main area, we walked up the path and found a young boy with a tiger cub near a cage with a bird in. The bird may well have been the one mentioned above. The cub was being petted by other tourists, and was fully relaxed and enjoying chewing on a plastic bottle as its toy. It nibbled on my fingers too and was so trusting of me that had I not been holding onto it carefully it would have rolled off the platform and fallen.

Having lived with animals most of my life (we once had 5 dogs at the same time at one point, a great dane, german shepherd, doberman, 2 chihuahas, a cat, two rabbits, two birds... I'm not kidding) judging from the way these animals acted and lounged about, there was no stress whatsoever in their lives. A mistreated animal, especially one that has seen abuse or neglect, is on edge, fearful of others (especially humans) and can explode into a rage without notice. I'm not an animal psychologist, but I do have a degree in psychology and I've also seen a few documentaries about animal treatment to support the (common sense) idea that mistreated animals are fairly easy to recognize in most cases. I'll say it again, these tigers were never once hit or threatened by any of the staff. They were pushed or pulled into place as you might expect any animal of that size would need to be to control it, but never in a harmful way. Are they drugged? I think one of the tigers was, the one you pay the 1,000 bhat to take your picture with. That's just my opinion though. The tigers being hit, them not having water to drink, simply false. It didn't happen in the 2 hours I was there.

Now 4 days behind the scenes... anything's possible. The fact remains the animals behaved as if they hadn't a thing to worry about in the world. A mistreated animal is not going to act docile and playful with humans. As I said if there were any drugged, only one appeared to be. Could they all be drugged? Possibly. Most certainly the baby cub wasn't, and even a cub would be nervous and afraid if it was physically abused. I'm not sure how long this temple has been doing this, but I heard somewhere 10 years. Thousands of tourists over 10 years and none are *eaten* or mauled? I heard there was only one case in the history of the temple. Try abusing a pack of pit bulls and open a tourist attraction where strangers come and pet them. I think we all know how that ends.

That whole rant above just reminded me of how defensive vegens get when you ask them why they're vegens. Some people always have a chip on their shoulder and like to cause a stir. This is my favourite part:

"Apologies if this sounds harsh, but we like to be hard and to the point. If your aim is to volunteer for an organisation that has a high regard for the welfare of the animals, then we do not recommend the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi. If your aim is however to touch/pet wild animals, take your photo with them and generally exploit them for your own personal enjoyment and experience, then please do not consider applying to us as this behaviour is against our principles. For your information, we also have a campaign against wildlife exploitation in tourism, some information is on our website here: "

How nasty is that? Let me be 'hard and to the point'. This cynical, offensive response to a simple *question* tells me a great deal about how narrow minded the views of the author are, and does more to discredit the above claims than help support them. I especially like the 'we', as if to claim his/her opinion holds true across the entire organization he/she is a part of. I wonder if they all have such vitriolic responses to concerned individuals who are thoughtful enough to ask? I smell angry, feminist vegen who's out of valium (not that there's anything wrong with being angry or out of valium).

In short, I can't say I know what's going on behind the scenes, but from an observational standpoint, the tigers looked healthy, happy, and well treated by the staff. Nothing above from the tourist perspective (ie, the missing water which is clearly in the pics I took) is true. And again, an mistreated and abused tiger's den is the last place I'd want to be, tourist or not, drugged or not.

*PS, please don't let my knock on feminists or vegens distract you. Tasteless jokes are still just jokes.

Edited by Kusarigama
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Kusarigama

The letter in my post was indeed from Wild life friends of Thailand and was sent to me by the director himself. I volunteered there for nearly a month and Edwin was the one who sent me the letter. He responded first that he would hope I would not support them by going to visit.

The letter, as I stated, was sent to people inquiring about volunteering with WWFT. This includes the final paragraph which you seem to think rings of a, " feminist vegen who's out of valium (not that there's anything wrong with being angry or out of valium."

Kusarigama,

You were there and I was not, so your opinion is yours and that can be respected. However, WWFT's opinion and many Wildlife advocate groups see the condition and the situation of these Tigers as something different.

First off they do not believe that they should be paraded around so you and others can get a picture with a Tiger. They see this as exploiting them.

Perhaps they have water and shade for the Tigers now, but that didn't seem to be the case when Edwin and the group went there.

You said it yourself, you were there for 2 hours and are not a vet, nor are you an expert on the behavior of Tigers.

I asked the opinion of someone who I respect and admire very much and what I posted was what he sent me. I decided to share this with forum.

Nice how you not only jump to conclusions but like to throw in derogatory comments about someone you know nothing about.

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Kusarigama

The letter in my post was indeed from Wild life friends of Thailand and was sent to me by the director himself. I volunteered there for nearly a month and Edwin was the one who sent me the letter. He responded first that he would hope I would not support them by going to visit.

The letter, as I stated, was sent to people inquiring about volunteering with WWFT. This includes the final paragraph which you seem to think rings of a, " feminist vegen who's out of valium (not that there's anything wrong with being angry or out of valium."

Kusarigama,

You were there and I was not, so your opinion is yours and that can be respected. However, WWFT's opinion and many Wildlife advocate groups see the condition and the situation of these Tigers as something different.

First off they do not believe that they should be paraded around so you and others can get a picture with a Tiger. They see this as exploiting them.

Perhaps they have water and shade for the Tigers now, but that didn't seem to be the case when Edwin and the group went there.

You said it yourself, you were there for 2 hours and are not a vet, nor are you an expert on the behavior of Tigers.

I asked the opinion of someone who I respect and admire very much and what I posted was what he sent me. I decided to share this with forum.

Nice how you not only jump to conclusions but like to throw in derogatory comments about someone you know nothing about.

How is 'parading about' exploiting them? What exactly is harmful about walking a tiger down a path?

My derogatory comments are a reflection of the nastiness of that letter and the ignorance of its author. And no I'm not a vet or professional on tiger behaviour. Let me ask you, were any of the volunteers from that organization? What qualifications do they have? Where were they educated?

You've also ignored a few major factors in my post. That nobody has ever been attacked by these 'abused animals' and that more than a few people have already stated they've never seen anyone hit or attack the animals.

How you can say petting an animal and walking with it is exploiting it is also an exaggeration to say the least. And there has yet to be a single shred of evidence presented by anyone claiming these animals are mistreated in any way.

Someone you admire very much? I'm not sure exactly what you mean. Was that email you posted sent to someone else, or was it addressed to you? As I said that last paragraph in it was disgusting in its attack on the one who posed the question. I'm confused how you can respect someone who has no capability of showing it themself.

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Kusarigama do you not read.

"And there has yet to be a single shred of evidence presented by anyone claiming these animals are mistreated in any way."

Wilco the original poster was there and gave a first hand account of someone who was there as a volunteer. Wilco saw the abuse that you did not.

The letter I copied and posted was sent to Me by Edwin Wiek the director of Wildlife Friends of Thailand.

He and a group of people from International Animal Welfare and some other Wildlife Conservation Representatives went to see the Temple for themselves.

Their opinion of the Temple was given.

I don't know, but I think people who have pretty much dedicated a good portion of their lives for the welfare of animals, knows a little more then some guy who had a bunch of dogs and a rabbit.

It stated that the enclosures were not enriched and that the food given was not the proper diet for Tigers. Read up on Metabolic bone disease. Just one of the many diseases that is caused from malnutrition.

I'm finished concerning myself with Kusarigama's posts on this matter.

When I read the original post I decided to e-mail someone who is dedicated to the welfare of the Wild Animals of Thailand. He seemed to back up the opinion and concerns of the OP.

Thanks to Wilco for sharing with us what he/she saw there. I was thinking about going there myself. I was hoping that the Temple was similar to The Elephant Heaven in Chiang Mai. It would seem that it is not.

Peace out

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Hi All,

as regard's to evidence been shown for those who are intrested please look at this video clip, at around the 2.30 min mark your see the tiger Temple and how there kept, for those who now about Tigers your know that they need aroung 10 squred miles of terrain to themselves, please make your minds up.

Regards.

Chris.

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Wilko didn't see a thing then....Wilko pasted a firs-hand posting from LP. Please check their posting on this.

"What exactly is harmful about walking a tiger down a path?" - if you have to ask a question like that I seriously doubt you have a grasp of even the most basic issues surrounding the keeping of tigers - or ANY wild animals.

Edited by wilko
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as regard's to evidence been shown for those who are intrested please look at this video clip, at around the 2.30 min mark your see the tiger Temple and how there kept, for those who now about Tigers your know that they need aroung 10 squred miles of terrain to themselves, please make your minds up.

This is not the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi - it is a totally different place in Pattaya.

Perhaps this a source of confusion? I know up in Chiang Mai most of the tourists want to visit the royal elephant conservation centre south of the city but all the tour shops send people north to the tourist oriented elephant camps - many people just think 'I saw the elephants in Chiang Mai' and not 'I went to a circus that pays kickbacks to tour operators and bribes the local law to remain open'. Pain in the bum getting to the actual conservation centre - when I went there was not even a bus stop so rented a car and drove myself.

If what the WFT message states is true, I'm glad the place has obviously improved since they went through and the monks are genuinely improving the place when they can. The tigers are still fed on cooked chicken (so they don't get a taste for blood aparently), although they certainly seem healthy enough on this diet - it might not be the natural diet or what is used in first world zoos, but it certainly seems to build healthy tigers. Having seen the facilities visible to the tourists improve from that the message describes to what is there now seems fairly strong evidence to me that the place is genuine and genuinely interested in the welfare of the tigers rather than an attempt by a money grubbing abbot to turn an inaccessible monestary into a tourist trap and I look forward to the cubs being able to grow up in a more normal environment around other tigers when the facilities are ready, an option denied to the first generations there.

The tiger used for the head on lap shots (Storm I believe) I don't think is drugged, but genuinely just an extremely lazy, domesticated and totally at home in a community of humans. This seems a perfectly normal thing to happen when you raise a tiger from a cub with no adult tigers around. I think this is also what really irritates a lot of wildlife conservationists who are not so much interested in the animals but in preserving them in their natural behavior in their natural environment. I don't think it is justified though, as places like the temple at Kanchanaburi come into play after conservation efforts have failed with the arrival of orphans on the doorstep of people unfunded and uneducated but at least willing to give it a go and try to give them a decent life. Even if you consider this unnatural environment evil, it seems the lesser of many evils when the option of releasing them back into their natural habitat is just not possible.

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As other people have said " The OP did not see a thing".

The OP is spouting rhetoric that he has gained from someone else who claims to have been to the Tiger Temple. Does he show any concrete evidence? Are there any photos or films of this abuse and the tigers living conditions? No.

I have seen posts in other forums along a similar vein. They too had no evidence.

So we have to take the word of someone who has bever even set foot in the temple.

The WFFT does say :-

Tigers are reported to be beaten and abused into submission (negative-reinforcement techniques), in order that they can be handled and paraded in front of the abbott and the tourists.

I does not say the tigers are beaten.

Looking at the photos posted by silver I do not see any chains or see any sticks being waved about. granted, that is just a 'snapshot of life there for tourists' and is in itself not proof that the animals welfare is being well taken care of.

If there is so much abuse of these animals then why is there no hard evidence? Can someone not take a camera to this place and secretly film or take photos?

So far all we have is this second hand diatribe and it could be from any source. There are no names, dates or other evidence to back up these claims.

If the Tigers are being mistreated then, yes, people should write letters, make posts or whatever they see fit to do. BUT let us have some actual evidence, please. Not hearsay.

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Intumuch - unfortunately the overwhelming weight of opinion and evidence - both first hand and reported is that the place is not up to standard - any standard.

The treatment of wildlife in general in Thailand leaves a lot to be desired and places like the Tiger Temple at Kanchanaburi and the Tiger Zoo at Sri Racha need "outing".

I have pasted the above as it is in my opinion a reliable one. It is by no means the only one and many are from people who are well qualified and experienced in animal behaviour, husbandry and conservation. I have then asked for the opinion and evidence of others - not one person has been able to come up with any convincing argument on the "Temple's" behalf. Most are uninformed casual visitors who wouldn't know an"engorged" mammary gland if they were squirted in the face by one.

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Intumuch - unfortunately the overwhelming weight of opinion and evidence - both first hand and reported is that the place is not up to standard - any standard.

The treatment of wildlife in general in Thailand leaves a lot to be desired and places like the Tiger Temple at Kanchanaburi and the Tiger Zoo at Sri Racha need "outing".

I have yet to see a single report that sounds reliable, so 'overwhelming weight of opinion and evidence' is nowhere near reality. Having looked for reports, I have now seen *two*, both on this thread. Both are at least second hand. Both make no mention of when the report was made. One is traceable to an organization (WFFT), the other anonymous. The WFFT web site makes no mention of the temple so it doesn't appear high on their agenda. The entirety of the first report is hearsay given it is at least second hand and no source available. Nearly the entirety of the WFFT reports is rumor or obviously factually incorrect by those of us who have been there which makes it all look like a poorly done smear campaign by people with a barrow to push.

Removing the incorrect facts, rumor mongering and irrelevancies from the WFFT report we get:

  • The monks / handlers do not have any training or equipment for tranquilising animals. They rely heavily on negative reinforcement to keep the tigers docile, but there is always the risk of an animal getting out of control.
  • The abbott does not listen to criticism from the WFFT.

Of course you rely on negative reinforcement. If you are dealing with a big predetor you won't get very far if you give them a pat on the head if they don't maim somebody that day. Owners of house cats use negative reinforcement - tom's don't stop spraying your door step because you ask them nicely to. I love how they discuss the lack of tranquilizer equipment in the same paragraph as the criticism of negative reinforcement. Does anyone honestly think a whack on the nose, such as a mother would give a cub, is a worse way of keeping an animal under control than shooting it in the arse with a tranquilizer dart or keeping them drugged when around people?

The 'overwhelming weight of opinion and evidence' has had the opposite of its intended opinion on me. Comparing these rather pathetic smears against the information found on the Tiger Temple's web site, positive opinions from better known sources like the Animal Planet special and my own first hand experiences as a tourist there, I am no longer doubting of the claims made by the Tiger Temple nor of their desire to help the orphaned and temple bred animals. At the moment I am of the opinion that people boycotting the temple based on this 'overwhelming weight of opinion and evidence' are doing themselves a disservice by missing out on a fairly unique experience and hurting the animals and people boycotting the temple for moral reasons are perpetuating the problems they see as without funds the animals will continue to be raised amongst humans and be unable to be released into the wild because there are no acceptable alternatives.

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Intumuch - unfortunately the overwhelming weight of opinion and evidence - both first hand and reported is that the place is not up to standard - any standard.

The treatment of wildlife in general in Thailand leaves a lot to be desired and places like the Tiger Temple at Kanchanaburi and the Tiger Zoo at Sri Racha need "outing".

I have pasted the above as it is in my opinion a reliable one. It is by no means the only one and many are from people who are well qualified and experienced in animal behaviour, husbandry and conservation. I have then asked for the opinion and evidence of others - not one person has been able to come up with any convincing argument on the "Temple's" behalf. Most are uninformed casual visitors who wouldn't know an"engorged" mammary gland if they were squirted in the face by one.

IF I were able to see any proof of this overwhelming evidence then I would be the first to condemn such activities. All we have so far are second hand accounts by un-named people.

I am against animal cruelty. I despair when people put cats into microwave ovens 'for a laugh' - 'to see what happens'. It is horrific when dogs are left alone for weeks / months with no food and they eat each other to stay alive. The list of real cruelty goes on and on in this life and most of this cruelty I hear about is perpetrated by Farangs.

Until I have proof of the alleged cruelty to these Tigers at the temple I cannot condemn the monks and others for what they do and cannot condemn the tourists for wanting to go and see such an attraction.

As to many tourists not knowing an engorged mammary gland if they saw one, they must never have seen a cat or a dog or other animal after it has had young. Or, maybe, even been with a pregnant woman whose breasts swell with milk. Squeeze her breasts and see what happens!!

Buddhist teachings are against cruelty to animals. Many Thais I know will not even kill a snake. Some are even reluctant to kill fish to eat for dinner.

Show us the proof, not some vicious, second hand hearsay. In this day and age of cameras and camcorders someone would have, by now, got photographic evidence to back up the odd stories like yours.

You say you have asked others for their opinions and evidence. You are getting opinions but no evidence. Doesn't that tell you something?

Hearsay should never ever convict anyone of a crime.

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Of course you rely on negative reinforcement. If you are dealing with a big predetor you won't get very far if you give them a pat on the head if they don't maim somebody that day. Owners of house cats use negative reinforcement - tom's don't stop spraying your door step because you ask them nicely to. I love how they discuss the lack of tranquilizer equipment in the same paragraph as the criticism of negative reinforcement. Does anyone honestly think a whack on the nose, such as a mother would give a cub, is a worse way of keeping an animal under control than shooting it in the arse with a tranquilizer dart or keeping them drugged when around people?

Stub, you don't get it. WWFT does not think the Tigers should be forced to get their pictures taken for the sake of money and to entertain tourist. They are not suggesting that the Tigers should be doped up and put on leases.

They are not house pets! They are Wild Animals who were taken out of the wild and put into cages. Some of the Tigers were born there, but the rest were pouched from the Wild.

I'm not saying that the Abbot pouched them, but I think forcing them to sit with Tourist for pictures is wrong.

As for WWFT's website, they do make mention of The Tiger Temple. It is on the News Page under the campaign to stop the use of wildlife in tourism.

If any of you feel that purposely not feeding an animal a proper diet isn't abuse clearly needs to study up on the diseases and suffering caused by malnutrition.

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Stub, you don't get it. WFFT does not think the Tigers should be forced to get their pictures taken for the sake of money and to entertain tourist. They are not suggesting that the Tigers should be doped up and put on leases.

They are not house pets! They are Wild Animals who were taken out of the wild and put into cages. Some of the Tigers were born there, but the rest were pouched from the Wild.

I'm not saying that the Abbot pouched them, but I think forcing them to sit with Tourist for pictures is wrong.

As for WFFT's website, they do make mention of The Tiger Temple. It is on the News Page under the campaign to stop the use of wildlife in tourism.

If any of you feel that purposely not feeding an animal a proper diet isn't abuse clearly needs to study up on the diseases and suffering caused by malnutrition.

I think I do get it.

  • The tigers where not poached from the wild - they arrived as orphans. Poaching would have been the cause, and without the tiger temple the cubs would be dead of starvation or sold with their parents corpses, or possibly sold into a tourist show.
  • I would hesitate to call them wild animals. They are raised in captivity.
  • The monks are trying to build facilities to look after the animals properly and in future raise orphans and the temple bred tigers in such a way as they can be released back into the wild. I doubt the monks think the tourist photo thing or raising the tigers in captivity is good either - it is a means to an end.
  • There is no mention of the Tiger Temple on http://www.wfft.org/news.htm, I now have found a very brief mention on http://www.wfft.org/tourismcampaign2007.htm. It is some empty rhetoric along with a photo taken at some completely different place. 'Infamous' tiger temple indeed! The WFFT seem to be the only group claiming it is bad. It really, really bugs me when groups involved in causes I support spout what I believe to be lies and misdirections like the worst sort of politician - it makes me doubt their integrity and all the other information they present, which is really sad because their key points about the gibbon trade and the phuket/samui/chiang mai tourist circuses are probably correct.
  • For diet, we have the WFFT saying it is 'an incomplete diet for felines' and they are showing signs of malnourishment. I said that the tigers all look very healthy, so maybe the diet is fine. Perhaps it is even better than a 'complete' diet for felines. Perhaps now with the income provided by the tourists they can afford the required supplements and processed foods to give them a complete diet. 'Purposely not feeding an animal a proper diet' - what a crock. Even the worst of the tourist circuses want their animals to have a proper diet as tourists don't like unhealthy and mangy looking animals.
  • The ethical choices seem limited to supporting the place helping provide them with the funds they need to make things better than they already are, or putting a bullet in the brains of the animals.
  • If these so-far easily demolished attempts at raising ire and boycotts actually where to succeed, the animals would be condemned back to tiny cages and would almost certainly have an irregular and unhealthy diet. No tourists going to the temple will not harm poaching in any way, so the animals will still arrive and the local community will still feel obligated to provide for them in the way they did before the tourist dollars came and took on most of that burden.
  • It is really sad that wildlife activists are lumping places trying to be part of the solution with places that are part of the problem. The myopic world view and total focus on 'the cause' seems to be hurting and hindering good volunteer and high profile efforts with the same overall goal.

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Stub I see your points. But I also see the points of people who think there could be a better way to feed and look after the Tigers that have been put in the care of the Temple.

You support them and clearly WWFT and Lonely Planet does not. Maybe with all the bad press and visiting Animal activist the Abbot is re-thinking the way the cats have been treated in the past and is making big steps to change things.

There isn't one animal welfare group that I can find that is supporting them only tourists and tour agencies.

As I said before, I know Edwin and I spent 3 weeks at WWFT. There is to no reason for him to make up some story and report that the Tigers are being mistreated.

They don't have to be lead on leashes to get money to help support them. They are Wild Animals, even if they are not living in the Wild. It's opinion and a lot of the opinion out there is that there is a lot of money being made and not all of it is being spent on the Tigers.

I've looked around and I haven't found any groups that support them, so..............

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Stub I see your points. But I also see the points of people who think there could be a better way to feed and look after the Tigers that have been put in the care of the Temple.

You support them and clearly WWFT and Lonely Planet does not. Maybe with all the bad press and visiting Animal activist the Abbot is re-thinking the way the cats have been treated in the past and is making big steps to change things.

There isn't one animal welfare group that I can find that is supporting them only tourists and tour agencies.

As I said before, I know Edwin and I spent 3 weeks at WWFT. There is to no reason for him to make up some story and report that the Tigers are being mistreated.

They don't have to be lead on leashes to get money to help support them. They are Wild Animals, even if they are not living in the Wild. It's opinion and a lot of the opinion out there is that there is a lot of money being made and not all of it is being spent on the Tigers.

I've looked around and I haven't found any groups that support them, so..............

Edwin didn't report that the tigers are being mistreated. He reported that there are reports that the tigers are being mistreated. This is just rumor. Perhaps he knew abuse to be a fact and couldn't report it as such due to Thailand's strict libel laws, or perhaps this is just a straight retelling - there is no evidence but he has heard reports. There are many many cases, such as the Bermuda Triangle and the Priory of Sion theories, believed by huge numbers of people and with huge bodies of 'evidence' but when it is all traced through to the real source material turns out to be based on proven lies or rather liberal interpretations of the truth. If people don't bother to fact check or are unable to do so, particularly groups in positions of power like Lonely Planet or WFFT, they may end up doing harm. Perhaps Lonely Planet should be publicizing the Tiger Temple to help raise funds for the good guys whilst simultaneously hurting the bad guys? They seem to do this for the elephant conservation centre south of Chiang Mai. I have no idea if their silence on the tigers is based on evidence or rumor. The negative opinions I've seen seem to be built on very shaky foundations indeed. They also all seem to all be at least two years old.

I haven't seen proposals from people who think there is a better way of dealing with the orphans, so can't see how practical they are or if the Temple was right to ignore them (or if the Temple has actually taken these opinions on board).

You are quite correct about not all of the money being spent on the Tigers, as can be found on the Temple's web site under local news. The temple seems to be operating like any other similar temple - it is just that this one happens to have a sizable population of an endangered species along with the usual herd of farm animals and assorted wildlife they accumulate. An argument could be made that this is deceptive as people expect their sizable entry donation to be going 100% to the temples. I would estimate the yearly income at 30 million Baht at current attendance levels (guessing about 100 people per day every day at 300 Baht per head, and a guestimate of 500 Baht extra donations per head), so the 1 million sum mentioned in the article I'm guessing is 3-4% of last years total revenue. I have no idea if this is a requirement of temple politics, a genuine gesture or respect and trust that the funds are well used, or what. If these figures are reasonable, it does indicate that the temple has reached its funding goals already (despite lower attendance levels in earlier years and lower fees pre 2005), and further evidence of this is that when I was there earlier this year the new facilities where scheduled for completion (this year I think).

I fully understand wildlife conservation and welfare groups not offering support to the Temple - it isn't the sort of conservation they would want to endorse. I hope planned completion of the new facilities goes to schedule and the temple is able to transform itself into the sort of facility that these groups can endorse, becoming a rehabilitation and breeding centre with good conditions and animals being released back into the wild and gaining enough political power to help curtail the poaching industry in the area. It may depend if groups consider the existing temple reared and domesticated tigers in the same way they consider the domesticated elephants, as the hand reared tigers will almost certainly continue to be used to help raise funds to keep the Temple operational and excess going to non-related expenses.

I've found a particularly interesting quote on the Temple's own website, from a few years ago given there where only seven tigers there at the time:

DE GUZMAN: A forest temple in Kanchanaburi province, about 100 miles west from the capital city of Bangkok. According to Buddhist tradition, temple grounds are sacred and it's a sin to harm animals living around monasteries. For this reason this temple has become a refuge for tiger cubs rescued from poachers working along the Thai-Burmese border.

DE GUZMAN: This two-year-old male tiger, Pai Yo, was rescued by Thai border police a year and a half ago. Pai Yo lives with seven other tigers at this temple.

DE GUZMAN: They're kept in cages no larger than a one-car garage. All the tigers here have become domesticated, relying on the monks for food and daily walks around the temple. Luang Ta Jan, the abbot of this temple, says it's becoming difficult to take care of the cubs especially now that they're getting bigger.

[TA JAN SPEAKING THAI] VOICEOVER: Some of the villagers around here are poachers, and sometimes they will bring the tiger cubs to us after they have shot and killed its parents. The poachers believe that by giving us the cubs to take care of they will be forgiven of their sins. These tigers won't be the last to come here. As long as the poaching continues, we will have more and more tiger cubs ending up at our temple.

If a group can progress from this situation to a genuine coservation and rehabilitation centre in a few short years (first tiger arrived 1999, serious fundraising efforts started in 2005), they will have done better than most. I hope the facilities go to plan, the Temple are successful in finding a volunteer vet (or free up some of those funds to employ professionals!), and their efforts be genuine and uncorrupted.

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Time will tell as to what changes are made at the Temple and perhaps as you said Wildlife Conservation Agencies and the like might be able to promote what they are doing in time.

At this time I haven't been able to find any that support them.

Thanks for playing devils advocate and making mention of the libel laws in Thailand. Let's just say that many an unwanted visitor has shown up on someones door for being too outspoken.

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Stub & Intumult - So you are both of the opinion that the tiger temple is OK and a fine place to look after tigers?

Have you checked out their web site and LP??

The bigger question is have you ever been or do you let other people decide such things for you?

I don't think either of the poster you questioned say it is a perfect place. They only said, that based on their own observations it is not as bad as others have made out. And they are making an attempt to improve it.

TH

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Most of the stuff written about the Tiger Temple does seem based on hearsay. It all either goes back to the same message as the original post in this thread which seems to be constantly reposted everywhere who remains anonymous. And there is another person who was a volunteer at the temple...but a little Internet research shows they are involved in a website that takes money from people as donations for the temple, yet I know does not actually pass the money on - is in my eyes affects their credibility.

If the original post on this thread had any holes in it, then one would have to question the rest of it but it has several in it. Read it a few more times and you'll see how it's not even consistent within itself.

I will say that I know several people who've been in the breakfasts with the monks etc and none of them have had the same experiences as this nameless person. This poster also says there are no plans to release the tigers in the wild, yet they do mention the Buddhist Park. They obviously didn't put two and two together - 3,500 acres of reforestation would be a bit large just for just accommodate some followers don't you think? Stub also mentioned the lion cubs, I hadn't picked up on that beforehand. I've never heard of any lion cubs at the temple and if there were any, it would be interesting to know how they got there!

Re the accusation that one of the female tigers is used as a breeding machine and the cubs separated so that they can be hand reared. The first time that tiger had a litter, she couldn't feed it. She has subsequently had a litter that she has successfully fed herself. This is what I know but I feel that I should provide other info as well so did a bit of googling and here is a link to someone else writing up their trip, it's actually a PDF document so I can't do a hyperlink but if you copy/paste these words into Google, you'll get the document.

While at the monastery, we saw one of the three newborn Tiger cubs be rejected by his

mother, and we were told that she had earlier refused another one. Rod, a Canadian monk at the

“Tiger temple”, mentioned that the last time this tiger had given birth, two of the babies had died

because the monks left the second and third cubs with her even after she had rejected the first.

Also rationally it would not make sense that if they wanted to separate mother & cubs that one of the first things to have been built on the Tiger Island project is the 'mother & baby islet'?

Please note I'm not saying the Tiger Temple is perfect. Not by any means. But I do think they are getting things done. Arguably, their version of conservation and the version of western organisations, or at least the campaigning ones will never be aligned, no matter what they do.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I spoke with this Rod today when I visited the Tiger Temple, he seemed a nice guy and took the time out to speak with me at great length about the place, granted the tiger temple might not be perfect but I have to say I really enjoyed the place.

Rod told me about a Monkey enclosure they had built that was only 2 foot high, when he said the monkeys could jump out of there no problem the Monks looked really surprised and this was after alot of hard work was done to build the enclosure, I think the Monks might be a little innocent, remember there not out there and worldy like alot of other people so sometime there methods are very different to what me and you might be used to, I really think the bottom line is the tigers are better off in the temple. And remember research is being carried out, of course it is. Many programs are looking to the tiger temple to find out why they're tigers are breeding so happily when in other developed countries the captive tigers are finding it very hard to breed.

I heard this yank today saying the place was really bad and that he had just given 37 dollers away just to look and take pictures of tigers and his wife was getting her pic taken with the tigers head on her lap, well for me I had just given 23 GBP away and really sometimes I spend that in a taxi fare just to get home after a nightout, personally I think they should charge more and speed up the process of building this new habitat for the tigers.

Its a once in a life time oppertunity for most people and all for under 100 GBP, i dont think you can beat it.

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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.

Patronizing an "attraction" encourages it. I would suggest that an excellent alternative and better alternative might be the Khao Kaew Open Zoo on the way to Chon Buri.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I read many replies on the issue written on the website of the WFFT (wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand) and wish to clarify a few things concerning the tiger temple. I think we should first of all realize where the tigers originally came from. We have received reports that came from good sources that the first tigers came from an elephant camp nearby and were SOLD to the temple. The cubs were indeed orphans, but only after their mother was killed in the wild. It is also confirmed by the Royal Thai Police to us that they have NEVER given any confiscated tigers to the temple for (temporary) care. As a matter of fact all tigers at the temple have been officially confiscated from the temple (in 2002), but were allowed to remain there as the government had no holding facilities at that time.

I think that the issue of animal welfare is an easy one to conclude here. Keeping tigers (and lately also lions and bears) in tiny dark enclosures is criminal. The excuse that there is no money for better enclosures a straight out lie. The temple has 300 to 400 visitors a day each paying 300 baht, besides this the animals are forced to lay down with tourists and be photographed for lots of money. They go back in their little cages immediately after the tourists leave. Volunteers at the temple have reported (and not just one individual but many) that the tigers that do not obey during the day will be disciplined in the evening by the monks and Thai staff, resulting in a beating to break their spirit.

I think that some people are scared to speak up as it involves monks here, but a very long documentary on Thai TV a few months ago showed the real face of the abbot on animal welfare and other even more serious mafia style practices at the temple by Thai journalists and locals that were threatened (TITV Thord Rahas). I myself live at a temple and work at many other temples and see that the majority of monks are real, but there are always some people that try to exploit the system.

my conclusion for this is that the tiger temple is NOT involved with WILDLIFE CONSERVATION at all as they do not educate, protect or conserve. They ARE involved in ANIMAL ABUSE as they keep the animals in bad conditions. The temple is a money spinner for those who take the admission fee and other money for the pictures with foreigners. You will hardly see Thai people there as they know what is going on, some other Asian people do come who are fooled by the story just as most of the westerners...

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  • 1 month later...

This quote from another web site allegedly a threat from the "friends" of the Tiger temple........

I would be very careful about 'bagging' tiger temple on the forums... I am one who does not like the Tiger Temple based on my personal experience however when I wrote a post about this on Trip Advisor I received a very nasty threatening private message from someone who has said they have downloaded my photos from my blogs and passed them onto people who are going to do their own thai style justice when I come back to thailand .... it was pretty sick!! Apparently I was screwing with peoples livelihoods by advising against going there... not very monk like behaviour whoever it was!!!

Here is just some of the threats made ( I have deleted the more obscene parts of the email) :

"You want to mess with my friends livelihoods do you? SKANK.

I can safely call you SKANK as i have seen your f*cked up head on your blogs that you advertised on this site, all which are pretty lame!!!

Now i believe you will be in Thailand February/March? Is this correct HO? And you will be spending some time with Tong? Well how about some Thai style justice from the people whose livings you are f*cking with. They know Tong well and are directly and indirectly involved with the Tiger Temple and are very interested in meeting you, you skank!!!! Then you can tell them your concerns in person about this particular institution, and how you want them to lose their livelihoods

I have already downloaded your pics and forwarded them, people are very intereted in you. A*S WIPE!!!!!! You deserve what is coming your way Skank!!!"

Charming people associated with this place!!

Reet xx

------------------------------

http://www.travelblog.org/bloggers/reet

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Having been to the Tiger Temple 8 times now, I have to say I have never seen any Tiger being hit or punched.

If you arrive early you will see them in their enclosures, the helpers give each Tiger a bath before they come out ( I assume this is to maintain human contact rather more than clean them ) The Tigers seem to enjoy this.

Next the Tigers are bought out of their enclosures and congregate under the shade of trees, the younger ones are not tied up, you will see them climbing the trees and playing ( quite roughly when excited ) with their handlers.

Once they are all out, the main guide will tell you all to follow them on their walk to the canyon and tell you not to walk in front of them, The main Monk will walk with "his" Tiger and you are invited to take the leash and walk him and have your photo taken.

Once in the Canyon they each have umbrellas to lie under, some are chained, but most are not, they will just lay down and soak up the sun. You can have your photo taken with each of them, I don't care about the photo, just to sit on a rock with 3 tigers ( not chained )and tickle their feet and pat each one is enough for me. Where else can you have this experience, it instills in you what a truly magnificent creature they really are and you feel so priveledged to have had this close encounter.

After most of the visitors have finished with photos some of the Tigers will enter the small lake and play games and/or have a swim,( no handlers ) or run up the Canyon walls and have mock fights.

I personally have not seen cruelty of any discription, and the Tigers seem content enough considering they are in Captivity. Yes, there is probably a great deal more that could be done for them if you want to see them roaming free, the monastary has started, you will see new development there all the time.

In the last 2 years things have progressed by leaps and bounds, give it time.

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There is a flagrant lack of respect and compassion.

Unfortunately that sentiment is fairly ubiquitous to Thailand in general regarding animals and, sadly, humans.

Went there about 5 years ago and while it was nowhere near as popular back then as it is now - something like 40 baht to get in and free for Thais - it was obvious that it was all about the cash. How the monks, if they are indeed real monks, can hold their heads up with what they're doing is beyond me... but then gain, I refer back to the quote :o

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Having been to the Tiger Temple 8 times now, I have to say I have never seen any Tiger being hit or punched.

If you arrive early you will see them in their enclosures, the helpers give each Tiger a bath before they come out ( I assume this is to maintain human contact rather more than clean them ) The Tigers seem to enjoy this.

Next the Tigers are bought out of their enclosures and congregate under the shade of trees, the younger ones are not tied up, you will see them climbing the trees and playing ( quite roughly when excited ) with their handlers.

Once they are all out, the main guide will tell you all to follow them on their walk to the canyon and tell you not to walk in front of them, The main Monk will walk with "his" Tiger and you are invited to take the leash and walk him and have your photo taken.

Once in the Canyon they each have umbrellas to lie under, some are chained, but most are not, they will just lay down and soak up the sun. You can have your photo taken with each of them, I don't care about the photo, just to sit on a rock with 3 tigers ( not chained )and tickle their feet and pat each one is enough for me. Where else can you have this experience, it instills in you what a truly magnificent creature they really are and you feel so priveledged to have had this close encounter.

After most of the visitors have finished with photos some of the Tigers will enter the small lake and play games and/or have a swim,( no handlers ) or run up the Canyon walls and have mock fights.

I personally have not seen cruelty of any discription, and the Tigers seem content enough considering they are in Captivity. Yes, there is probably a great deal more that could be done for them if you want to see them roaming free, the monastary has started, you will see new development there all the time.

In the last 2 years things have progressed by leaps and bounds, give it time.

I affraid this is the kind of cluelessness that allows places like this to continue....it has been officially closed....it was not even good enought for the incredibly slack Thai laws.....how can you read this posting (and others )and not show the slightest concern?

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it has been officially closed....it was not even good enought for the incredibly slack Thai laws

Well, you could look at it like that, or you could look at it in other ways such as certain people wanting the tigers to be moved to Sri Racha.

Is that what you want...??

I'm assuming you are referring to the 'confiscation' or the land disputes some time ago which has not actually happened. The tiger temple has not been officially closed and it's misleading to suggest so. In fact it's had support from official sources since the disputes.

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