Looking through Facebook travel albums, a certain photo opportunity gives me a disturbing sense of déjà vu. Tourist after tourist takes pictures beside a majestic tiger, docile due to drugs. The allure of posing beside an exotic animal outweighs issues of animal welfare for many travellers. Any tourist who loves and respects animals should avoid Thailand’s tiger temple. Here’s why:
- The Tiger Temple, officially known as the Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanaburi, is one of Thailand’s most popular attractions. The centre attracts people by promoting the idea that the bhat of travellers pays to keep the tigers cared for. Everyday tigers are brought to the canyon where people can pet them and have their photographs taken. Tigers are forced into unshaded areas for hours at a time for the amusement of visitors.
- The temple maintains low standards in terms of its adherence to animal welfare. Many tourists have expressed their dissatisfaction and concern, reporting children bouncing on tigers and toying with them in a disrespectful, potentially dangerous fashion. The centre provides unsuitable accommodation which is cramped and fails to mimic a tiger’s natural habitat. Veterinary issues, ailments and many means of abusing the tigers in order to make them ‘safe,’ including drugs and physical abuse, are further results of keeping the tigers in unnatural conditions.
- The experience is also dangerous for tourists. Tigers are wild animals. They can never be fully controlled even when trained, drugged up and abused. A wild tiger, particularly one that has been caged and ill-treated, is prone to aggressive outbursts which could prove fatal.
- The Tiger Temple proclaims that all tigers were rescued from poachers. Whether this was true or not to begin with, the centre now breeds tigers in captivity, mistreating and exploiting these animals from birth. The centre has also been connected to the illegal tiger trade.
- The tigers spend an astonishing 20 hours per day caged. The cages themselves are narrow, small and provide no entertainment or enrichment for the tigers. The temple obviously perceives the tigers as the main event and sees no reason why they should be amused.
So how can you be a responsible tiger tourist?
- Boycott the tiger temple and any centre affiliated with tiger trade, abuse or mismanagement.
- Thoroughly research institutions before visiting and paying. Your money contributes to their cruelty.
- Donate money directly to tiger conservation charities and research projects.
- Advise family and friends to AVOID the tiger temple. Share this post to get the message out.
- Travel with Responsible Travel; this company focuses on travel that assists wildlife rather than exploit it.
By Kayleigh Parker