AboutZoos, Since 2008


Con­tro­ver­sial tiger tem­ple in Thai­land gets zoo license

pub­lished 27 April 2016 | mod­i­fied 27 April 2016
by Shreya Das­gupta

Thailand’s Tiger Tem­ple has been mired in controversy.

Ear­lier this year, a National Geo­graphic inves­ti­ga­tion and a report released by Cee4life (Con­ser­va­tion and Envi­ron­men­tal Edu­ca­tion for Life) accused the tiger tem­ple of being involved in ille­gal tiger trade. The reports alleged that the temple’s 147 tigers were abused, kept and bred with­out per­mits, and ille­gally removed from or added to the temple.

The tem­ple author­i­ties have denied these alle­ga­tions and have been try­ing to get a zoo per­mit to gain legal sta­tus of its 147 tigers. Pre­vi­ously, the temple’s appli­ca­tions for a zoo license were rejected.

But last Tues­day, the Depart­ment of National Parks granted the tem­ple a license to oper­ate a zoo, local media reported. This devel­op­ment has angered sev­eral activists and conservationists.

We at the Wildlife Friends Foun­da­tion Thai­land (WFFT) are shocked and dis­gusted by this lat­est devel­op­ment of an ongo­ing sick­en­ing drama that has con­tin­ued for so many years,” Edwin Wiek, Founder and Direc­tor of Wildlife Friends Foun­da­tion Thai­land, said in a state­ment. “Instead of being taken to court and receiv­ing a well war­ranted penalty for all the crimes com­mit­ted they now are rewarded with a zoo license, so they can fur­ther con­tinue the uncon­trolled breed­ing of more and more tigers. The tem­ple can now obtain lots of more wildlife, through legally trad­ing and pur­chas­ing many more endan­gered species, fur­ther increas­ing the abu­sive prac­tices of this, what seems to us, like an unstop­pable hell hole for animals.”

Wiek added that Thailand’s laws do not allow peo­ple involved in ille­gal wildlife trade to obtain a zoo license.

Tiger temple Wat Phra Luang Ta BuaLast Tues­day, Thailand’s Depart­ment of National Parks granted the con­tro­ver­sial tiger tem­ple a license to oper­ate a zoo, anger­ing sev­eral activists and con­ser­va­tion­ists.
Photo by Michael Janich, CC By-​SA 3.0 Wiki­me­dia Commons.

How­ever, offi­cials from the Depart­ment of National Parks told Bangkok Post that the license was given legally with proper reg­u­la­tions. The zoo will be reg­is­tered and run under a sep­a­rate pri­vate enter­prise called the Tiger Tem­ple Co.

This is mainly to deflect back­lash against the tem­ple, Saiy­ood Peng­boon­choo, a lawyer for the tem­ple, told Khaosod Eng­lish. “The bureau­cracy doesn’t want the tem­ple involved in this because it would look bad.”

The license, which is effec­tive until 18 April 2021, will allow the Tiger Tem­ple Co to run a zoo cov­er­ing 25 rai of land (~10 acres) to be devel­oped with a bud­get of 120 mil­lion Baht (~$3.4 mil­lion). The license will allow the Tiger Tem­ple Co to use wild ani­mals, includ­ing tigers, for show, accord­ing to the Bangkok Post. But the com­pany has to ful­fil cer­tain con­di­tions, which include hir­ing full-​time vet­eri­nar­i­ans and spe­cial­ists, and hav­ing lim­ited num­ber of ani­mals at the zoo.

This year so far, the Depart­ment of National Parks has removed 10 tigers from the tem­ple and relo­cated them to government-​run research cen­tres. The depart­ment report­edly told the media that they will con­tinue to relo­cate tigers from the tem­ple, but the license would allow the tem­ple com­pany to buy its tigers back.

We still have as our mis­sion to relo­cate them all from the tem­ple,” Adis­orn Noochdam­rong, the department’s Deputy Direc­tor Gen­eral, told Bangkok Post. “If the com­pany wants them back, it could be pos­si­ble to buy them back from the department.”

Saiy­ood, the temple’s lawyer, told Khaosod Eng­lish that the tem­ple com­pany does intend to buy the tigers back from the depart­ment once the tiger cages are ready.

Wiek has called the department’s expla­na­tion for grant­ing a zoo license to the con­tro­ver­sial tem­ple “absurd and unbelievable”.

The WFFT is seri­ously con­sid­er­ing to demand from the Admin­is­tra­tive Court that the law is to be enforced on this issue, and that the zoo license is revoked imme­di­ately by the courts on grounds of seri­ous legal neglect on the pros­e­cu­tion, dou­ble stan­dards on enforce­ment and that the issue of the zoo license is against pro­ce­dure,” he said in the state­ment. “Last but not least we also would like to ask the Reli­gion Affairs Depart­ment under the Min­istry of Cul­ture if com­mer­cial­iza­tion, the open­ing of uneth­i­cal busi­nesses in tem­ples, will be the new rule from now on instead of prac­tic­ing the teach­ings of Buddha.”

(Source: Mongabay news release, 27.01.2016)

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

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