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Thew Tiger Temple - Is It A Travesty?


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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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