Most people know the infamous Thailand tiger temple in Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand. Thousands of tourists have visited this place where they can walk, play and pose for pictures with adult tigers and feed tiger cubs in their laps. A lot of visitors came to Thailand merely for this purpose.
The temple claims they were doing conservation by preserving the tiger species and save them from extinction. However, investigation shows only breeding program happens there without releasing or reintroduction program. This allegation is supported by a statement from Julianne Chisholm, foreign manager of the temple as she says “All of the tigers that were born here will stay here.” In conservation, it is the population of the tigers in the wild that needs to be increased, not in captivity. Most, if not all, of the tiger offspring born in temple are hybrid of Indochinese, Bengal, and Malayan tiger as quoted from their about page. Producing and raising hybrid offspring cannot be considered as a conservation act.
Tiger Temple History
The controversial temple claims to be the oldest surviving Buddhist school, a Theravada Buddhist forest temple in western Thailand and a sanctuary for numerous animals, including several tame tigers. The Tiger Temple was founded in 1994 as a forest monastery and sanctuary for numerous wild animals. In 1999 the temple received the first tiger cub; it had been found by villagers and died soon after. Several tiger cubs were later given to the temple, typically when the mothers had been killed by poachers. As of 2007, over 21 cubs had been born at the temple. As of late March 2011, the total number of tigers living at the temple has risen to almost 90.
According to WFFT all tigers from the temple had been confiscated in 2003. A lot of activists have raised their concerns about this place and finally in the first week of February 2015 Thai government officials raided the temple and found illegal hornbills, bears, and jackals kept within the temple complex which then mysteriously disappeared within the next day. On April 1st, 2015 the Thai government officials went to inspect the temple again regarding a report of three missing tigers. However they could not conduct the investigation because temple staffs refused to open the temple and unlock tiger cages.
The abbot of the temple, was supposed to meet DNP (Department of National Parks) Thailand on April 17th, 2015 but he fled to Frankfurt instead.
Head of DNP stated they would seize all 146 tigers from the temple by the end of April. The tigers will then go to different sanctuaries in in Ratchaburi, Khao Prathap Chang and Khao Son.
If you ask my feeling regarding the current situation, I have to say I’m happy that the Thai government finally do something for the tigers and other animals there, but I’m worried for the future lives of these tigers at the new sanctuaries. From veterinary point of view, moving a single tiger for a long trip journey is not going to be an easy job, leave alone moving nearly 150 tigers at once. From restraining, sedating, moving, monitoring, and watching the adaptation in new environment all takes real effort, not to mention long-term monitoring to ensure all standard and animal welfare is met at the new places. Nevertheless, I’m optimist things will get better and the animals will get better lives soon.