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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.

Edited by stub
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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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