I just received the following release from Care for the Wild, a UK-registered conservation group.
In the past we've suggested visitors to Thailand should consider carefully before visiting the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi. This release, with a link to the full report, should be considered essential reading for anyone considering visiting the place.
Tiger Temple- Illegal Wildlife Trafficking, Animal Cruelty and Tourist Safety Risks
A report released today by British conservation group Care for the Wild International (CWI) reveals disturbing evidence of animal abuse and illegal tiger trafficking at one of Thailand's premier tourist destinations.
The report follows a two year investigation into the conduct of staff at Thailand's Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi. Up to 300 international tourists visit this facility each day, but boosted by the worldwide broadcast of a documentary on Animal Planet, numbers reach almost 900 on busy days.
CWI's Chief Executive Dr Barbara Maas says, "The Temple's popularity is based around claims that its tigers were rescued from poachers and move freely and peacefully amongst the temple's monks, who are actively engaged in conservation work. But this utopian façade hides a sinister reality of unbridled violence and illegal trafficking of tigers between Thailand and Laos."
Approximately 15 tigers live at Temple at any one time. Poor housing, husbandry and cruel handling are systemic throughout the facility. Far from being allowed to roam free, tigers are confined for 20 hours a day away from public view in small, barren concrete cages, measuring 31.5 m2 to 37.3 m2. This falls short of the published minimum of 500m2 for a pair or a mother and her cubs. Staff also routinely beat adult tigers and cubs with poles and metal rods.
As a result, the tigers suffer a catalogue of behavioural and physical problems, including lameness, skeletal deformities and stereotypic behaviour, such as pacing and self-mutilation. These complaints are further exacerbated by malnutrition and poor veterinary care.
CWI's Southeast Asia Director, Guna Subramaniam says, "Interacting closely with live tigers is the chief attraction that draws tourists to the Temple. Each day between 1pm and 4pm some ten tigers are chained up in the Temple's ‘Tiger Canyon', where paying visitors, including young children, can touch, sit or lie on the animals' front or back. For a further fee they can also have their photograph taken. Staff prop up the tigers with heavy concrete bowls to oblige them to adopt and maintain appealing poses. Tigers are also pulled into position by their tail and sometimes punched, kicked or beaten to make them compliant. Temple staff tower over the animals and control them by squirting urine into their faces from a bottle. In the wild, tigers use urine as a territorial or aggressive signal. Sprayed by staff at close quarters is extremely aggressive."
A Thai wildlife trader claims to have sold the Temple its first tigers. CWI also obtained evidence that, rather than rescue orphaned tiger cubs, the Temple operates as an illegal breeding facility and is involved in the clandestine exchange of tigers with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos. Tiger Temple sources told CWI that a minimum of seven tigers listed in the Temple's 2005 and 2007 brochures disappeared, while at least five individuals appeared without explanation. "It is mostly older animals that were sent to Laos in exchange for young cubs," says Dr Maas. "No one knows what happened to them there. These actions contravene both local and international laws under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
"Some of the new tigers were given the same names as animals who had been exported to Laos to obscure the fact that tigers are being moved in and out, and to perpetuate the impression that the Temple provides rescued tigers with life-long care."
The Temple claims to breed tigers for conservation. It does not have a breeding license, but at least ten cubs were born there. With no information about the tigers' subspecies, most if not all offspring are likely to be hybrids. For this reason alone the Temple's tigers are unsuitable for inclusion in a recognised conservation breeding programmes. Another concern is that the release of tigers that are used to human proximity is dangerous and potentially fatal for humans, livestock and the tigers, and so is almost never viable.
CWI's report also raises concerns about visitor safety. There are numerous well-documented and even fatal attacks on humans by ‘trained' and apparently mild-mannered captive wild cats, including during photo sessions. However, Temple staff fail to prevent direct contact even when the tigers are aggressive.
When asked why tourists don't get bitten, the Abbot replied: "They want to bite. One day they will bite." The Temple explicitly renounces any responsibility for injuries and asks visitors to sign a disclaimer at the entrance.
"There is no doubt that the tourists who visit the Tiger Temple from Britain, Europe and the US do so because they are fond of tigers," says Dr Maas. "But unlike these visitors who part with their cash under the misconception that it will benefit the Temple's animals and help protect wild tigers, the tigers can't leave.
"CWI is alarmed about the animal welfare problems, false conservation claims, furtive cross-border movements of tigers, and acute risks to visitor safety at the Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple, which is nothing but a sordid theme park that betrays one of the most imperilled species on earth."
"CWI met with the Temple's Abbot to discuss these problems and work towards a solution. However, the Abbot was reluctant to negotiate and showed no interest in reform," said CWI's Guna Subramaniam.
CWI recommends that Thailand's Department of National Parks confiscates the Temple's illegally held tigers and transfers them to a sanctuary facility, where the animals can be accommodated and cared for appropriately. CWI has identified a suitable facility in Thailand and is offering its full support for this operation.
Video footage on YouTube:
Tiger Temple/ Animal Cruelty -1
Tiger Temple/ Animal Cruelty, Moving with Force- 2
Tiger Temple/ Aggressive Tigers - 3
Tiger Temple/ Injured Tiger- 4
Tiger Temple/ Restrained for Photo-taking- 5
Tiger Temple/ Visitor Safety Risks- 6
Tiger Temple/ Enclosures- 7
For more information: www.careforthewild.com
...and don't forget Sri Racha Tiger Zoo...an equally dubious institution!
#2 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
The list is endless of these kinds of places, but just a note of caution - none of these claims of cruelty have been verified by anyone. All I see in this release are unfounded allegations. I want to know where is the evidence? I am against this kind of treatment which is alleged, but I see no actual evidence (just a very defensive abbot).
For heaves sake! What kind of evidence do you need...are you saying that the CWI report is unsubstantiated?... ( I presume you've read it) please identify which allegations you doubt and WHY!
#5 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
For any doubting Thomases out there...here's a quote from another forum...
"If you or anyone else has the results of a survey or any evidence to the contrary from another source please let us know where we can read/see it. A reputable organision like the NatGeo would not publish or refer to any survey unless it had confidence in its authenticity."
#7 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
who's going to pay 2000 baht each to house them properly?
certainly not the crummy backpackers who complain about their treatment. they complain if they pay 10 baht too much for a t-shirt.
#8 travelrock has been a member since 19/4/2008. Posts: 209
So because of Travelrock's(fully-researched??) accounting of the situation everyone should stop complaining and let the place get on with it??????????
#9 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
unnecessary comment about crummy backpackers aside, i'm not sure i agree that there aren't those of us who would pay the significantly higher fees to help maintain an eco- and animal-friendly center for tigers. i think we would, and a successful organization like "the gibbon experience" in laos comes immediately to mind as an example of just that. besides, if it was understandably too expensive for those crummy backpackers, i'm sure the other dreaded element out there, the tourists , would have both the social conscience and the disposable cash to help make it happen. sounds like a neat idea.
It is a great shame about the plight of animals in Thailand[whole of Asia really].Asians seem to view animals as just an item to be exploited for monetry gain or,possibly worse,food.Perhaps things can change but it will take education and a long time.And Thais being Thais will have to learn it for themselves.
Agree that an eco friendly centre for Tigers and Elephants would be a great idea but I think that one of the biggest problem would be finding the land.
Theres no problem if there's a will to do it. As you are not meant to build - except monasteries etc. - on land with more than a 19 degree gradient in Thailand, there's plenty of land available.
as also the ideal land would be jungle it could be tied into a larger conservation project.
"Centres" re really for animals already ripped out of the wild for one reason or another - conservation is mainly to maintain the populartion still out there.
#12 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
I confess I haven't read into this properly, however I always find it interesting to read 'the other side of the story': www.tigertemple.co.uk is a website created by two British volunteers who worked at the centre for a period, their account is very interesting.
"Research on the internet showed that the temple not only takes in orphaned cubs found by villagers or rescued from poachers at border control, it has now become a conservation project with a breeding programme. Several cubs have been born at the temple and there are plans for future generations to be returned to the wild - although donations are needed to fund this project."
This is now not beieved to be true - it was an unsubstantiated story given out by the temple - how would 1 week working for the temple prove otherwise - did they expect the monks to confide in them and "let the cat out of the bag?"
In fact these people seem to have been hoodwinked by the Temple - not an uncommon practice - and then on further visits seen through some of the sham that the Temple represents.
mutilation of the animals has never been allaged by the serious reports - the basic concept of the place has - the fact that it does not nor cannot do what it claims to do
#14 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
"They are fed cooked chicken, beef offal and cat food.
The chicken and beef are cooked so that the tigers do not get a taste for blood. The cat food is added because commercial cat food manufacturers always add back essential vitamins that are lost during cooking. The cat food of choice is Whiskas." - raw meat is an essential part of a Tiger's diet - what evidence is there that Tigers can develop a "taste for blood"????????
#16 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
"how many species of tigers there were, " - there is no DNA racord of the Tigers and breeding has left great uncertainty into whether they have been cross bred or not - the native species to Thailand - Corbetts is a particulrly rare and endangered animal.
#17 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
"Care for the Wild International has investigated the temple and has produced the following report. Care for the Wild.
CWI recommends that Thailand’s Department of National Parks confiscates the Temple’s illegally held tigers and transfers them to a sanctuary facility, where the animals can be accommodated and cared for appropriately. CWI has identified a suitable facility in Thailand and is offering its full support for this operation. If Tiger Temple is not going to fulfil the original promise of providing the tigers with a place to roam free, then the tigers need to be moved as soon as possible. CWI has said they will provide support for the operation - who will make it happen?
Tiger island by March 2007???????
Where does all the money go????
#18 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
Another visitor's conclusion -
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
#19 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
i'm so glad to see this here. it's so sad to see how poorly these animals are treated, but even more distressing that tourists often remain purposefully and blissfully unaware.
some private "zoos" and non-government animal-related tourist attractions in thailand have a terrible history of mistreatment of animals (the sri ratcha tiger zoo debacle a few years back is another sad example). if you really care about wildlife, think carefully about where you choose to spend your tourist baht. could you have any doubt that you shouldn't be hanging out with tigers???
government zoos do not have the same terrible reputation and there are plenty of them across the country to visit.
and, there are some great organizations here doing really good work where you can go and know your money is being put to good use (tho, because they are sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers, you won't be snapping photos with the animals or putting them in unnatural situations).
Highland Farms (http://www.highland-farm.org/) and The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Phuket (http://www.gibbonproject.org/) are both Thai-run organizations trying to right some of the wrongs caused by exploitation and mistreatment of animals (gibbons in these cases) for profit.
I wonder sometimes whether we (usually westerners) measure others with duplicity.
We criticise Asian zoos about cruelty using moral standards to which we'd hope our nations aspired.
Yet, if we loked behind the door of our own (western) institutions, we'd find little difference.
For example, I live beside the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS). Located on the Gold Coast, Australia, it is an Australian icon, it has a good worldwide reputation, and it is supposed to be a leader in animal care.
Recently, CWS had too many kangaroo. So, what did it do? It took them away and slaughtered them. Could CWS have moved the kangaroo to wild places? Yes, but CWS said it would cost too much!!!
CWS holds its animals in cages or pens, and only allows visitors to hold the more cute ones after they've paid a hefty fee. Is this not the commercialisation/exploitation of wildlife?
As for teaching people that human diseases can easily be transferred to wildlife, CWS appears to be saying "do as I say, not as I do".
Over the past decade, CWS has been generating revenue by selling Koala to overseas zoos. The long term management of Koala overseas is outside of the control of CWS. Clearly, the purpose is profit, not wildlife management.
By zoological standards, CWS is attributed to be 'leading edge'. That suggests other zoos in the western world have lesser standards.
A nearby attraction on the Gold Coast is Dreamworld. It has a large number of Polar Bear, Koala, and Tiger, and it is supposed to be assisting the global preservation of these species.
But, the animals are held in smallish enclosures, and are merely there to attract patrons. Some are taught to perform tricks to better attract visitor patronage.
If we are to apply the criticisms levelled on this page to CWS and Dreamworld, then these animals ought be roaming free in an ecotourism setting, or have access to a huge amount of land, etc., etc..
Clearly, western zoos are commercial undertakings for human titillation.
Why then are Asian zoos any different?
Your comparison of 2 zoos is not only too small but also highly superficial.
Yes there ARE zoos all over the world that do not come up to scratch” – I have noticed especially in Australia that local attitudes and regulations seem t very.
There are however major cultural socio-economic, religious and educational factors that affect the keeping and treatment of wildlife in S.E. Asia. The overall result is that a very large number of zoos are set up without ANY scientific thought and are purely private money-making activities – the emphasis is one the “lowest common denominator” – get the public in entertain them and get their money.
As you have pointed out, information on zoos in the west is much easier to com by - In Australia even the Surfers zoo finds itself scrutinised and subject to both public and local govt criticism....it is far less likely to resort to corruption and bribery of local police and govt officials to avoid court decisions levied against it.
...and at the end of the day this is a travel site and a posting on a Thai zoo - Im sure if you go to an Aussie posting you may find criticism of zoos there. Even the late Mr Steve Irwin was no stranger to controversy
#22 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
all of that about zoos is true, but there is a huge difference here in thailand between public zoos and for-profit animal entertainment enterprises, such as the tiger temple. the tiger temple IS NOT A ZOO. there are many zoos in thailand, that is not one of them. come to thailand and tour one of the zoos, then visit a private animal center and you will know the difference immediately.
for sure there are issues with zoos, but at least here the zoos are run by people who have some accountability to the public and to the government that funds them, who aren't doing it just to make money, who have studied biology/zoology, who engage in discourse with the rest of the world over how to run good zoos and care for animals.
putting the zoological parks organization of thailand and the people who run the tiger temple in the same pot is a very lazy, facile way of looking at things.
it's so easy to point to "cultural differences" as an excuse for something a traveler engages in but frankly, most people in thailand would not condone what goes on in for-profit animal centers.
In general I agree - I don't want to get into the semantics of "zoo" or definitions of such, but the cultural differences cannot be underestimated.
There is a lack of scientific approach to many zoos and animal shows in Thailand - the govt zoos too.....
I was lookng at the birds in my garden the other day with a Thai friend andpointeed out a bird that I though was "very nice" - he disagreed - why I asked hy he responded - "Mai aroi" not delicious...
#24 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
BTW - Somtam - isn't it about time you stopped advertising tours of the temple on your web site????
#25 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
I was NOT seeking to say my observations amounted to a statistically relevant 'sample'.
Rather, I was trying to say that we westerners appear very quick to criticise the Asians over ethical standards, when we are just as guilty of unethical activity ourselves.
That Asian zoos may be more 'confronting' to a western observer than zoos in his/her home area does not make the fact of zoos anywhere 'palatable'.
Nor does it make zoos more 'palatable' by pointing to a commercial operation as somehow not appropriately motivated.
The bottom line is that zoos, or "for profit animal parks", however constructed, are merely designed for human titillation. Any breeding outcomes are typically ancillary to the main purpose of profiting from the investment.
- - - -
I note from the ITC letter, a paragraph of concern...
"It is generally accepted that the number of tigers in captivity already greatly exceeds the number of tigers left in the wild. However, the conservation contribution of the vast majority of this captive population is negligible. The World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) undertakes to maximise the contribution of captive breeding to the conservation of wild tigers. Of the tens of thousands of captive tigers, WAZA identifies only around 1,000 suitable individuals. We do not need more captive tigers, but more tigers in the wild."
It is applaudable that WAZA seeks to expand wild tiger numbers.
However, to criticise the efforts of any zoo that undertakes the breeding of an endangered species merely because the principle objective of the critic is to expand the population of that species in the wild seems immoral and unethical.
Should we say to our grandchildren...
"Sorry, there are no more tigers left in the world.
We could have kept some tigers in cages in zoos.
But, we really wanted to have them in the wild and the remaining ones were all shot out by uninformed villagers seeking a few dollars to assist their poverty."
Or, do we say...
"Sorry we haven't been able to stop the destruction of tiger habitat and poaching.
But, at least there are examples in cages in zoos."
- - - - -
We in Australia had an animal called the Tasmanian Tiger.
The Hobart zoo had one in a cage merely as a spectacle. It didn't do anything to assist/induce reproduction.
Now the Tasmanian Tiger is extinct!
- - - - -
On such an ethical issue, there are never going to be right answers.
Ethics is like pregnancy, one can't be half pregnant!
"Rather, I was trying to say that we westerners appear very quick to criticise the Asians over ethical standards, when we are just as guilty of unethical activity ourselves."
this is confusing one issue with another - because we in the west hve bad zoos we shouldn't criticise other zoos - on non sequitur if you ask me.
As I said earlier this is about Thailand and the special problems that exist there.
as for the breeding of Tigers - have you read tthe CFW report? ..it outlines the problems created by the Temple"s breeding program - which apart from the negative scientific and conservation effects on Tiger populations, is incidentally very likely connected to the export of Tiger "parts" for medicine in China.
#27 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
brucemoon's points are well taken. but the zoo (as in not for profit government zoo) issue aside, it's tough to justify a visit to the tiger temple or any other tourist trap of that sort.
i guess the bottom line for me is -- don't visit the tiger temple or places like that and encourage others not to. if you are really interested in wild animals in Thailand, visit or donate to the rehabilitation and conservation groups (a couple of which i mentioned in my earlier post). or visit a national park and hike around and see some wild animals. the siam society does some excellent study/observation trips, mostly led by thai naturalists (tho its a mixed crowd).
it's strange that some think all the people who post here are westerners...
"BTW - Somtam - isn't it about time you stopped advertising tours of the temple on your web site????"
You're seeing adds for tours to the Tiger Temple? Where? If it is a google ad (has "ads by google" somewhere near the ad) then let me know the domain name that is listed by it and I'll block it. I'm in Indonesia at the moment and not seeing them (may be appearing only to viewers in Thailand).
Just on zoos, I always think of a zoo in Qui Nhon in Vietnam I visited in 1994. One crocodile and one of the monkeys were dead -- both were visibly decomposed. Staff seemed surprised when we brought it to their attention. Further side note to that, was both had "War Booty" marked on their enclosures, meaning they had been grabbed from Cambodia during Vietnam's time there.
I wouldn't go to this place.
I have been to some 'zoos' and 'shows' and 'parks' in Thailand, mostly when I first started travelling around there but now I wouldn't go to ANY of them unless they are a charity that actually takes care of the animals or they at least seem happy.
In Sri Ratcha tiger zoo I walked out of the circus tent coz it was cruel. I don’t like seeing an elephant walking trough bangkok much either, or the iguanas that get taken around the bars. It’s all cruel.
Saying that though, Chiang Mai’s Zoo looks like the animals are happy enough each time I’ve been there (couple of times) and Mae Teang Elephant camp north of Chiang Mai. Although they have a ‘show’ the elephants seemed happy and the people there seemed to care for them.
I know there are many other good places in Thailand to see this sort of thing and it doesn’t take much to research a bit before you go there. I know I will be in the future.
SOMTAM - it's in the google bit at the top.......
#31 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
OK I've banned one -- if you see another appear -- tell me the web address that is displayed with the ad -- it's far easier and (less time consuming) for me to ban that way.
OK - will do...
#33 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
Just came across the most remarkable video of a guy hanging out with a pride of lions in a private wildlife reserve in South Africa. The animals, quite obviously are not drugged, but, unlike the Tiger Temple, this is a man who has "built up a relationship" with the lions over years (unlike the film crew, who film from behind a fence). The Tiger Temple allows complete strangers the same interaction.
Somtam - it is a common mistake that people compare the behaviour of Lions and Tigers as similar - this is NOT the case - they are very different creatures whose habitat, behaviour etc. has very little in common.
for example - Lions live in prides and are social creatures this is not the case with Tigers who apart from mating will lead a more solitary existence............
at the end of the day even a nineteenth century circus man could tell you that whilst lions were trainable and safe, the same could not be said of Tigers - who have always been regarded as unpredictable.
#35 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
The following are videos of an Australian lady who went undercover and filmed in there. This is all the proof anyone needs. The way they separate the cubs from their mothers is heartbreaking. Two new born cubs died while she was there because they were left in cold cages by themselves and not fed the number of times newborns should be. She witnessed tigers being sold and swapped. Please spread the truth about this disgusting place to anyone you know planning to go.
Part 2 This video is part two showing the cubs separated from their mothers;
#36 Steph88 has been a member since 31/5/2010. Posts: 3
Thanks for the heads up. Friends of mine had told me how wonderful a place it was, and I was going there next month! Just watching the youtube videos made me cry. It was un beleiveably cruel. Poor tigers are obviously distressed and so skinny. It seems like a horrible place. I can't beleive people would visit and leave hinking it was good for the tigers to live like that.
#37 allykat has been a member since 23/11/2009. Posts: 24
If the cruelty aspect isn't enough to keep you away from this place, maybe the personal safety element will be. A Swedish man was attacked by one of the inmates in late December 2010 and is now having to take rabies shots - which imho is getting off lightly. Read about it: http://www.scandasia.com/viewNews.php?news_id=8068&coun_code=se
There were 2 international conferences on Tigers last year - Thailand even HOSTED one - and look what they are doing for the Tiger - NOTHING!
it is a disgusting example of two-faced Thailand
#39 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
"The Tiger Temple allows complete strangers the same interaction. "
Not true at all. Visitors only touch the tigers from behind and the tigers are chained down. They are only allowed to touch babies on the head.
The TT is sh it house though. Place stinks, hot as hell and overpriced. Definately recommend people avoid the place and go to Safari World in Bangkok instead. Tiger and lions are allowed to roam around a bid paddock there and you drive thru past them. There other animal shows are good too.
#40 Krabiman has been a member since 2/1/2011. Posts: 223
the very phrase "Animal Show" makes me shudder - especially in thailand.
#41 khunwilko has been a member since 27/1/2007. Posts: 560
I wonder if any of the tigers have ever eaten a monk?
#44 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957