Like most people I would jump at the opportunity to see wild animals, especially in their natural environment. Unfortunately to see tigers in their natural environment was not an option for me and going to a tiger rehabilitation centre sounded like the second best option. It seemed like an exciting opportunity to interact with exotic animals, and why not if they are protecting the animals.
I went on a morning excursion to the Tiger Temple in Thailand in 2010, which is quite close to Bangkok. It is a booming enterprise that offers you the chance to pet, feed and take photos with tigers. This opportunity seemed amazing and just too good to be true … and sadly it is. During my visit I suspected everything might not be as advertised, and it was only afterwards as I read up about the Tiger Temple and that I became aware of what was actually going on there.
Before my trip I was told that conservation is a part of the program at Tiger Temple and that they are helping to encourage the re-population of tigers to the region.
As part of our temple tour we got to posewith a majestic tiger. the Temple’s monks encouraged us to touch the tigers as the monks assured us they were docile because they have been hand-reared.
Although they insist that they care for the tigers the truth is quite the opposite. Most of these tigers looked very sleepy and they were all chained up and not able to move around at all. There are rumours that the tigers are drugged, which makes them appear “sleepy” and “content.” The other rumours are that the tigers have been brutally beaten and abused to learn to fear their captors.
Here are some facts about this temple that I came across in an article.
1. Tiger cubs at the temple were taken from their mothers, they were not orphans as the monks told us. These cubs were then handed over to the tourist for bottle feeding and non stop molestation. And yes, I did stroke one of these cubs and had my picture taken with it. Something that I am now quite ashamed of doing.
2. Cubs are bottle-fed all day long!! As the temple made most of its money from everything cub related. They had a long morning program with up to four afternoon feedings which must have been hell for the cubs.
3. The Tigers were obviously not getting any exercise at Tiger Temple. These majestic creatures were either in tiny cages or chained down like prisoners to the ground, so that tourists could take photos with them. These things were not just done at certain times as the monks told us, this was a day long occurrence.
4. Even though these animals were raised by humans from birth, they are still instinctively wild. There will always be an inherent danger as they can be unpredictable animals. Every year a tiger mauled an unsuspecting tourist at the temple.
5. These tigers were on the equivalent of an American diet. It is awful to think that they were fed boiled chicken every day. Many were overweight and had underdeveloped muscles. Tiger Temple claimed they couldn’t give the tigers red meat because it was “too expensive.”
6. And lastly, the money tourists “donated” didn’t go to tiger conservation. Tiger Temple was a very shady Tiger Business. The money tourists gave went first and foremost into building their big Vatican-like Buddhist temple. Just because a place was run by a bunch of “monks” didn’t make it holy or reputable.
The Tiger Temple in Thailand was raided in 2015 by the government as allegations surfaced that the Buddhist monks were illegally breeding their tigers and trafficking them across international borders. Not exactly in the spirit of “conservation.” Tiger Temple was later forced to shut down and to hand over their 147 tigers to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
Did you have the chance to visit Tiger Temple before 2015?
And if so, what are your thoughts on this place?