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Tiger Temple at Kanchanaburi, Thailand; a volunteers account

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1. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member, 454 posts) 2 Sep '07 19:43

wildfk has indicated that this thread is about Thailand

I found this account of the Tiger Temple; it makes disturbing reading...........

bushchick - "Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi".

"I........... booked my ticket to Thailand and travelled half way across the world to go and live with monks and tigers for four weeks! I have to confess to finding it very difficult to write this without resorting to profanity, sarcasm or overly emotive language. I hope that by getting this onto this and a few other websites I can play some minor part in providing information and hopefully doing something about stopping what is going on in the name of Buddhism and Conservation at this "Sanctuary" for wild animals or at the very least stopping tourists from supporting this. I applied to volunteer at the Tiger Temple because I wanted to be a part of the promised tigers roaming free with Buddhist monks experience having an interest in both wild animals and Buddhism. Although I understood that there was probably an element of marketing speak due to the fund raising slant in the promotion of the Temple and the mysticism of the whole experience, I thought that, due to my research on the Temple website and other pages and blogs my expectations were realistic in terms of how these animals lived and were treated. The animal cruelty and abuse at the Temple was blatant and obvious to me from the minute I arrived. (The first animal I came across was at the Volunteer s House, a young and very distressed female cat who was engorged and in agony with too much milk. Her five 2 week old kittens had been removed from her by Temple staff and we were told - taken to a Cat Temple . I was surprised and upset to come across an animal in such distress as this was not how I would imagine a sanctuary would treat any animal). I arrived mid morning and on my first day one of the other volunteers who d been there for a few weeks took me around to show me the captive animals. (There is also a large number of farm type animals goats, cows, horses, chickens - and water buffalo, deer, wild boar and peacocks roaming around the Temple grounds.) The first cage I came across was a large chicken wire cage under a tree with a hawk in it. The bird apparently had a broken wing. It is never released from the cage. Then there was a row of concrete cages with single adult tigers, one with the baby tigers, and at the end of the row (with a large generator placed in front of it so one couldn t really see what was in this dark, dingy dungeon) a leopard who has, apparently, not been let out of the cage since she arrived there 8 years ago. My next visit was to a large, double sized concrete cage almost out of view of all the other cages, where they keep two very young (I would estimate them to be about 6 months old) lion cubs. The cage is bare but for a concrete bowl of water. There is nowhere for them to shelter or hide (they are clearly terrified of humans) and certainly nothing for them to play with no tyres or branches or any sort of toys. We then saw all the other tigers either on their own or with two in a cage. Some of the tigers are never released from their concrete cages. But others, on average 8 tigers a day (usually the same better behaved and better looking tigers not the stroppy ones or those with scars or bloody eyes) are taken into the Canyon to be photographed with tourists. This outing liberates them from their cages for a 10 minute walk on stony gravel to the Canyon, three hours chained by the neck to a ring in the blazing sun, and a 10 minute walk back home to their cages. On their way to and from the canyon the tigers are encouraged to move by being lifted by the base of the tail, shoved and punched. One tiger girl would always walk next to the tiger with a garden hoe in her hand, this she waved in front of the tiger s face or banged on the ground next to it whenever it slowed down or stopped. (The threat was implicit, but the tiger was motivated to move whenever it saw that hoe.) Whilst in the Canyon, the tigers are disciplined with Tiger Balm being rubbed onto their faces, tiger urine being sprayed into their mouths and (surreptitiously, but in full view of tourists) being punched quickly on the face and head. As to whether the animals are drugged or not, I cannot be sure. (Although sedation would surely be the kindest way of helping them get through those long hot hours in the canyon.) The argument against drugging is the expense and, I believe, the difficulty of dosage (meticulously worked out amount of drug to body weight) although local herbs mixed in with their boiled chicken could possibly work. (Some of them were completely unresponsive all the time, even when we visited their cages in the early mornings or in the evenings, and this could possibly imply properly prescribed drugs.) In the Canyon the volunteers are there essentially for crowd control. I felt ashamed at being apparently complicit in the running of this circus - which is really no more than a money making scam where tourists are required to donate B300 to come into a Buddhist Temple (illegal to charge, by the way), and another B1000 for a special photo with a tigers head placed in your lap. This place is operated along the lines of a very badly run zoo with no money - not an animal sanctuary which receives all this money (work it out, an average of 400 people a day and that s on a slow day with, say, very conservatively 50 people paying for photos) from tourists. Much of the money received over the years since the Animal Planet programme has been promoting it (since about 2003, I think) appears to have been (very recently, as in it has just started being built) spent on building a "Buddhist Park Project" which will essentially be an area to accommodate the followers of the Abbot's Teacher when he comes to visit the Temple! The Tiger Island ( for their freedom and return to the forest ) which is apparently the reason we all throw money at the Temple is not yet complete, but seems to be nothing more that an area for tiger cages with a moat built around it so tourists can't actually get at them and see how they live they will still operate the Canyon Photo Circus and, as they will still be hand reared, there is no plan to release tigers back into the wild. Although we could wander around the cages at any time and watch the workers with the tigers, volunteers were now prevented from ever actually being with the tigers (no cleaning of cages, no bathing of babies) and I was only ever really in the same position as the tourists and never able to see how the staff treated the animals when there were no tourists watching them but I feel that the way the tigers cringed away from chains, lengths of hose pipe, the garden hoe and some of the male staff members, that there was certainly discipline metered out behind closed doors . In the morning the baby tigers are brought to the temple where we have breakfast and are allowed to roam around with the monks, staff and volunteers. Every time a cub came anywhere near one of the volunteers, a staff member would yank it away, the babies (four of them are really little, 2 months old and one quite boisterous 5 month old he was tied to a pillar) were pulled around by one leg or held back by the tail, slapped so they skidded across the wooden floor boards, thrown up into the air, their faces held and noses punched, pinched and flicked, they were continuously mauled, teased and tormented. I have to admit that I couldn t stand it for very long and my planned 4 week stay lasted a mere 4 days. There is a flagrant lack of respect and compassion and certainly no love for these tigers. And this lack of feeling clearly gets worse as the animals get older and bigger and stronger. Essentially, the animal welfare laws in South East Asia are not stringent enough to close down this establishment due to the cruelty and abuse that is metered out there (along with the illegal breeding - one tigress is kept with the sole purpose of producing cubs - which are removed from her almost immediately after birth and reared by humans). All we can do in the short term is spread the word to stop tourists from supporting this place. Please boycott the Tiger Temple and report what you have seen to animal welfare organisations like Care for the Wild www.careforthewild.com "

would you still go there???

2. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator, 5555 posts) 2 Sep '07 23:21

This s*cks. I have read and heard lots of things about this, most of them bad, some good. I guess you gave a good impression and if this is the case, I still don't understand why they are promoting this on channels like Animal Planet. I think the people from Animal Planet have not visited this place for years or maybe just for 5 minutes.
In general, it is a shame how people treat animals which are close to distinction like the tiger, out of stupidity or pure cruelty.
Let's chain the monks!

3. Posted by opospa (Travel Guru, 1836 posts) 3 Sep '07 00:01

Well, i suppose when men with cameras from Animal Planet went to shoot some videos and documentaries, they will treat the animals in a good way.....to promote and show some goos images about the temple....
However, after those men went back, they will treat the animals as how wildfk described....

4. Posted by draggons (Full Member, 113 posts) 3 Sep '07 20:01

This Wat is now getting a lot of bad publicity.

I first went there over three years ago and saw no indication of the animals being maltreated, all the tigers down in the canyon were unchained and were quite lively.
I have not been back for a while now but think a trip might be in order just to see what is happening. The same post is on a couple of forums now.
If it's as bad as it seems to be getting then I think it's very unfortunate. This being Thailand if tourists boycot the Wat and the money dries up then what's going to happen to the tigers and other livestock they have there?

5. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member, 454 posts) 3 Sep '07 20:19

The main problem seems to be that most people who go there are simply "lay-persons" and don't have a clue what they're looking at.
I think another problem is with thew monks running the establishment - what are their qualifications? Who trained them?
With the best will in the world you can't simple get up one day and decide you're going to look after tigers!

6. Posted by opospa (Travel Guru, 1836 posts) 3 Sep '07 20:21

Quoting draggons

This being Thailand if tourists boycot the Wat and the money dries up then what's going to happen to the tigers and other livestock they have there?

Well, i guess the tigers eat those monks and staffs alive!!!

7. Posted by michnrach (Budding Member, 16 posts) 23 Oct '07 02:02

I wish i'd seen this post a month ago but i was too busy preparing for my travels. I'm responding to this thread to bring it back to the beginning so hopefully more people will read it. I had had the tiger temple recommended to me by a friend from work who in fairness as said above prob did go over 4/5yrs ago so went along quite naively. Once we arrived at the canyon I really struggled morally whether to go ahead and have photo's taken with the tigers as they certainly appeared drugged to me and pretty unresponsive. I never paid the 1000b for the picture with the tiger on your knee but did take pics with my own camera, my reasoning at the time was that if it was run by monks then surely they wouldn't drug the animals or treat them badly. Obviously now I know I should have trusted my instincts and I urge other people to never visit this place. You walk away feeling terrible.

8. Posted by Jenny_h (Budding Member, 21 posts) 2 Nov '07 16:18

Dont do tiger temple, elephant rides or anything else that involves animals in Asia. They dont give a s*it about the animals they just want your money!!! Sad but true!!!

9. Posted by AndyB24 (Respected Member, 167 posts) 3 Nov '07 09:06

Quoting opospa

Well, i suppose when men with cameras from Animal Planet went to shoot some videos and documentaries, they will treat the animals in a good way.....to promote and show some goos images about the temple....
However, after those men went back, they will treat the animals as how wildfk described....

That sounds exactly right to me, everyones on thier best behaviour around a camera.
Maybe someone could start running tours to the temple where you can slap the monks around and spray tiger urine in THIER mouths. I´d pay for that !

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