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


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 naive, 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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