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Bio­di­ver­sity Counts!
Obser­va­tions and opin­ions con­cern­ing zoos, evo­lu­tion, nature con­ser­va­tion and the way we treat/​support the ecosys­tems which are sup­posed to serve us.

201314Dec16:55

Tiger Tem­ple man­age­ment shows the worst of bud­dhist monks

pub­lished 14 Decem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 18 Decem­ber 2016

Tigers are being exploited by bud­dhist monks in Thai­land, which proves that these monks have sim­i­lar desires as the com­mon man, one of them: being inde­pen­dent from char­ity. Unfor­tu­nately, they use decep­tion and abuse tigers to achieve this independency.

It has been a while since I first read about the Tiger Tem­ple and its busi­ness. I couldn’t believe what I read and I was aston­ished by the video footage avail­able on the web. Until then, the relaxed atti­tude of bud­dhists towards life and their denial of earthly belong­ings was some­thing to strive for, I thought. Because it could make the world a bet­ter place. While trav­el­ling sev­eral bud­dhist coun­tries many years ago I expe­ri­enced the way they wor­ship the soul, either human or ani­mal, and dis­ap­prove vio­lence. It was a warm bath of love for life, death and rein­car­na­tion. The lat­ter being a belief of course.

Tiger TempleBut it turns out that even amongst the peace­ful soul-​searching com­mu­nity of bud­dhists there are mate­ri­al­ists who exploit their image of con­tem­pla­tion and reli­gious beliefs by sell­ing ani­mal abuse to igno­rant peo­ple. Peo­ple who want to have the time of their life while on vaca­tion, includ­ing a close encounter with tigers. They can have their pic­ture taken while play­ing with tiger cubs, walk­ing, pet­ting and wash­ing a tiger, hand-​feed a tiger, and enter­tain tigers. After hav­ing signed a legal dis­claimer that the Tiger Tem­ple is not liable for any injury or dam­age what­so­ever, you are enti­tled to have your per­sonal close encounter with a tiger. All this can be arranged for at the Tiger Tem­ple, but it does not come cheaply. It cost about US$ 170 for a spe­cial morn­ing ses­sion, that is exclud­ing the addi­tional charge for a photo session.

The monks believe the tigers are rein­car­na­tions of past gen­er­a­tions of Ther­avada bud­dhists, and they con­sider the ani­mals sacred, accord­ing an arti­cle in the Inquisitr. Devoted as they are the monks some­times share a meal with a tiger. And we, the com­mon peo­ple, are invited to take part in this per­fect world. A fairy­tale, wouldn’t you say. Of course, you have to part from some hard-​earned money first.

But it appears to be more like a night­mare for the tiger. These mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures are treated quite dif­fer­ently as the pub­lic rela­tions machine of the monks tries to make us believe. I would say that the abu­sive treat­ment of a for­mer bud­dhist who is rein­car­nated as a tiger is some­thing dif­fer­ent than show­ing respect to your pre­de­ces­sors. And it must be bad for your karma.

I would like to encour­age you to watch this footage and judge for your­self, whether this is accept­able enter­tain­ment and ani­mal care­tak­ing or not – do you think the tigers are drugged dur­ing the tourist-​tiger-​entertainment encounter?:

(Jour­ney­man Pic­tures YouTube Channel)


Tiger Tem­ple claims it received its first tigers as a con­se­quence from the poach­ing indus­try. In their brochure a hard-​to-​believe story is told about the very first tiger being a female Indochi­nese tiger cub that arrived, in a very poor con­di­tion, at the monastery in Feb­ru­ary 1999. Its mother was killed by poach­ers and being a few months old the cub was sold to a rich Bangkok res­i­dent, who wanted the cub killed and stuffed. Some­how the cub sur­vived the work of the man who was hired for this job, and the cub ended up being deliv­ered to the Tiger Temple.

So, tourists are told the place is a sanc­tu­ary for res­cued tigers and that the abbot is help­ing in the con­ser­va­tion of this highly endan­gered species, but this is con­tested. Despite this Tiger Temple’s claim, inves­ti­ga­tors from Care For The Wild Inter­na­tional write in a report that they “obtained evi­dence that sug­gested that, rather than con­tin­u­ing as a res­cue cen­tre, the Tem­ple now oper­ates as a breed­ing facil­ity and may be involved in the ille­gal tiger trade”, with breed­ers to mix up the temple’s genetic pool. In addi­tion, they are not part of any inter­na­tion­ally recog­nised tiger breed­ing pro­gramme. And the ques­tions are, what tiger species do they breed and how many?

The ani­mals are believed to be Indochi­nese tigers, but, due to the remote­ness of the tem­ple and the lack of avail­able funds, DNA test­ing to deter­mine the exact blood­line of the big cats has never been done. The edu­cated guess from inves­ti­ga­tors of Care For The Wild is that all off­spring are likely to be hybrids.

This means that the tigers born at the Tiger Tem­ple do not have any value for tiger con­ser­va­tion efforts at all. More­over, the tigers are raised by hand delib­er­ately, so they can­not be returned to the wild, ever, because they do not know how to hunt and are not afraid of humans.
Regard­ing the num­ber of tigers kept in cap­tiv­ity at the premises there’s plenty of room for debate. Accord­ing the Temple’s offi­cial records 17 tigers are kept in their facil­i­ties, while Care For The Wild sug­gests that at least 100 tigers are kept in not-​fit-​for-​purpose enclosures.

I still think – or hope – the world could be a bet­ter place if we all acted accord­ing the basic prin­ci­ples of Sid­dhartha (The Bud­dha) and equally respect all liv­ing beings with­out excep­tion and let­ting go of desires. But I realise this is rather naïve, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing the com­pet­i­tive world we live in nowa­days, and our desire to be enter­tained to the extreme. There­fore, while ques­tion­ing the con­ser­va­tion efforts and ani­mal wel­fare at the Tiger Tem­ple, I pro­vide you with a few exam­ples not very dif­fer­ent from the enter­tain­ment in the Thai bud­dhist temple.

While swim­ming with dol­phins is not excit­ing enough any­more, a pri­vate zoo in Dade City, Florida, USA, offers ‘swim­ming with a Siber­ian tiger cub’. And at the Out of Africa wildlife park in Ari­zona, USA, they offer shows called Tiger Splash where Ben­gal and Siber­ian tigers are romp­ing and splash­ing in a large pool as they play with their care tak­ers. Obvi­ously, both zoo­log­i­cal facil­i­ties are nei­ther approved by the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums (AZA) or the World Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums (WAZA), because there is no edu­ca­tion value what­so­ever included in these enter­tain­ment thrills. It may even give peo­ple the wrong idea that play­ing and inter­act with (wild) tigers is a nor­mal thing to do.

As the only objec­tive of these ani­mal enter­tain­ment facil­i­ties – Tiger Tem­ple as well as the afore­men­tioned US zoo­log­i­cal facil­i­ties – is mak­ing money, while for­get­ting about ani­mal wel­fare require­ments, there is no jus­ti­fied rea­son they exist and I would sug­gest not to go there!

Tem­ple of Lies:

(Care For The Wild Inter­na­tional YouTube Channel)



(Source: INQUISITR, 16.11.2012; Care For The Wild Inter­na­tional cam­paign; Tiger Tem­ple; ABC news blogs – Matt Gut­man, 10.10.2012; Out of Africa wildlife park – Tiger Splash)


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Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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