Buddha: " Whenever you see things, just see. Whenever you listen, just listen. Whenever you know, just know."
Tiger Temple Tour from Bangkok
- Wat Pa Luangta Bua
Forest Monastery, 'The Tiger Temple', Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand.
Our Visit to The Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
We visited The Tiger Temple as part of a three centre excursion (with Damnoen
Saduak Floating Market and Bridge over the River Kwai)
in late October 2007.
After reading the brochure for The Tiger Temple it sounded an ideal place for orphaned and other Indo-Chinese Tigers (Tigris
corbetti) to be cared for, as a consequence of being rescued from the clutches of poachers etc. Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno (Forest Monastery) was established as a wildlife sanctuary by the Buddhist Abbot-Phra Acharn Phusit (Chan) Kanthitharo in 1994 and the first Tiger cub arrived in February 1999, saved by a local Thai after the 'owner' (nobody should own a tiger!) tried to have her stuffed! Unfortunately she died four months after her arrival at the temple but soon after a pair of male cubs, which had been rescued from poachers, were taken in by the monks of the wildlife sanctuary.
Today there are close to twenty tigers 'cared for' by the monks of The Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi, Thailand. After visiting the site we have mixed feelings about this "New Home for Tigers" Project. On the one hand we ask ourselves if this is the great philanthropic work of a number of Buddhist monks with the welfare of the tigers at heart or is this just a money making tourist trap exploiting these beautiful and regal [wild] animals?
Is it a sanctuary; or is it a zoo? We will tell you what we found on our visit it may help you to decide.
As a visitor to Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery, known internationally now as 'The Tiger Temple' in Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand, you are required to 'donate' 300 Bhat to enter the temple. You can't wear anything Red, Pink or Orange at all as this will allegedly 'upset' the tigers, but don't worry if you do turn up in these inappropriate colours - you can buy souvenir type clothing, T-shirts and pants at the ticket office! (How considerate.)
The main entrance gate takes you into a walled and fenced area of scrub land, looking a bit like a dusty building site in places, where we were met by a couple of doe-eyed deer that seemed to enjoy licking the salts from our sweat beaded arms! Tearing ourselves away from these cuties we walked a few metres, seeing Tiger Canyon signposted off to the left. [The brochure says - 'The tigers are taken here for their afternoon exercise 1-4 pm'.]
Tiger Canyon is a natural (or is it excavated?) dead-end valley with a small pool fed by a trickle of a 'waterfall' (or is it a strategically placed water pipe?) with a number of scattered rocks (again strategically placed?) and what can only be described as an amphitheatre with bench seating around the open end of the 'canyon'.
The Tiger Canyon was the location of around eight tigers, were they spend the afternoon, chained down to rings in the ground, giving each an area of a few square metres to move around in. This is where we 300 Baht donors can see, touch and even have photos taken (free of charge) in close proximity to the tigers as part of your visit to the temple. Each tiger has at least one 'handler' and each visitor wishing to enter the theatre has a handler too, as well as a personal camera user, to take your photos with your own cameras. There are a lot of people around the tigers at any one time. Amazingly the subject tigers remained calm and dozy whilst we were led by the hand from tiger to tiger by our handlers, given a place to pose, sitting, squatting, kneeling or standing, individually by five of the tiger inmates.
The experience of touching a living, breathing, adult tiger is a feeling I won't forget in a long time but I do feel a sense of guilt, for being a party to the perpetuation of this daily ritual of petting a captive animal for money. Is it right or fair on the tigers to be 'cared for' here? Probably not. Would these particular tigers be alive today if it were not for The Tiger Temple? Probably not either. The horns of a dilemma spring to mind; without the money raised, who will pay for the tiger's care and the infrastructure that goes along with it?
Tiger Temple Thailand - Most of the tigers are kept in steel cages (a sorry
sight), like a primitive zoo, when not on display for the afternoon at Tiger
Canyon. Three slightly luckier tigers called: Pa Yu, Saifa and Sangtawan are
permanently housed together in an enclosure, poetically called, 'The Tiger Falls',
completed in September 2007. Described by the management (sorry, monks) as the
first 2.6 million baht open air enclosure for the tigers. These three animals
represent the oldest generation of tigers in the temple. The new exhibit features
grassy substrate, a waterfall, a surrounding moat filled with water and two caves
that provide hiding places for the tigers. (Their words not ours). We would describe
The Tiger Falls as a small, concrete lined, moated pit, containing three bored,
sad looking tigers with no more room each than they would have had in Tiger Canyon!
There is an even bigger regeneration project, well under way, within The Tiger Temple grounds, tiger sanctuary in Thailand, that will take the place of steel cages for the majority of the remaining tigers. More concrete, moated pits but bigger! We asked around and were told that there are hotels near the Tiger Temple in Thailand.
We don't suppose for a moment that any tigers that are here will ever be 'returned' to the wild areas of Thailand, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, where they truly belong but they don’t seem to be under fed or mistreated and apparently receive regular vetenary visits at Thailands' tiger showground. So better here than dead?
We spoke to a number of other donors whilst we were at The Thailand Tiger Temple and received the same mixed messages, (Thailands' big tiger prison, one person called it!) so we weren't the only ones going away with mixed feelings about this unique place (Tiger Zoo in Thailand). All we will say is that if you do go don't wear; Red, Pink or Orange !
Oh! And by the way we didn't see an actual temple and there are lots of other creatures wandering the grounds: deer, wild boar, buffalo, horses, goats, peacocks etc.
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