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Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, is a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand that was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals, among them several tigers, the majority of which are Indochinese tigers. The tiger temple is located in the Saiyok district of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province, not far from the border with Burma, some 38 km (24 mi) northwest of Kanchanaburi along the 323 highway.
In 1999 the temple received the first tiger cub, one that had been found by villagers; it died soon after. Later, several tiger cubs were given to the temple. As of July 2014, the total number of tigers living at the temple has risen to 135.
The original eight tigers brought to the temple were rescues, and thus far DNA data is incomplete and therefore unavailable to the public, as the pedigree of the tigers is not entirely known. However, it is presumed that they are Indochinese Tigers, except Mek, who is a Bengal Tiger. It is possible that some may be the newly discovered Malayan Tigers, as well as cross breeds or hybrids.
Issues, reports and controversy
It is claimed that the Tiger Temple’s philosophy for animal conservation is flawed, and an organization called Care for the Wild International claimed that based on information collected between 2005 and 2008 the Tiger Temple is involved in clandestine exchange of tigers with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos contravening the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and national laws of Thailand and Laos. It claimed it operates as a tiger breeding facility without having a respective license as required under the Thai Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act of 1992.
Based on the Care for the Wild International report, a coalition of 39 conservation groups, including the Humane Society International, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, World Animal Protection, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, penned a letter to the director general of National Parks in Thailand under the name 'The International Tiger Coalition'. This letter urged the director general to take action against the Tiger Temple over its import and export of 12 tigers with Laos, its lack of connection with accredited conservation breeding programs, and to genetically test the tigers at the Tiger Temple to determine their pedigree and value to tiger conservation programs. It concludes that the Temple does not have the facilities, the skills, the relationships with accredited zoos, or even the desire to manage its tigers in an appropriate fashion. Instead, it is motivated both in display of the tigers to tourists and in its illegal trading of tigers purely by profit.
In December 2006, ABC News spent three days at the temple and did not see any evidence of drugging or mistreating the animals. Both Thai and Western employees who were interviewed claimed that the animals were well treated. The abbot of the monastery stated that the eventual goal was to breed tigers for release in the wild.
In August 2013, blogger and animal rights activist Turner Barr went "undercover" at Tiger Temple as a volunteer for a mere 18 days. He chronicled his time there on a YouTube video that shows what he considered to be molestation, maltreatment and malnutrition of the tigers. He summarized his findings on his blog, Around the World in 80 Jobs, and distilled these down to 7 essential reasons to think twice before visiting Tiger Temple.
Current and Future Projects
The ongoing project of Tiger Island is now complete, housing the 100+ tigers in large spacious enclosures, where the tigers are able to roam free in beautiful natural habitats. This is all viewable by the public from the Skywalk - a walkway that extends throughout Tiger Island providing an aerial view of the tigers, lions relaxing and enjoying the quiet life.
The next huge project for the tigers is to begin at the start of the next year (2015). 3000 rai of land has been purchased with the intent of separating it in to sections of 10 rai per tiger. This will house the tigers in a semi wild state with constant monitoring but with as little human interaction as possible.
Another smaller project is to build a large extension to the current Moon Bear enclosure. The current enclosure is now too small to house the now six Moon Bears residing within the Temple. The hopes are to build a beautiful bear habitat tripling the size of the current enclosure.
The ongoing project of the new Temple Maha Wihan - Maha Chedi is funded by Thais and Buddhist guest who come to the Temple donating their money to building this new Temple. It is being built for Lord Buddha Worship, Dhamma Worship, Monk Worship and as a status symbol of gratefulness to Phra Dhammavisutthimongkhol, Luangta Maha Bua Yannasampanno.
Other animals in the Tiger Temple
The temple sanctuary is also home to several herds of deer (five species) as well as peacocks, water buffalo, cows, goats, horses, banteng, porcupines, boars, jackals, civet cats, lions, several kinds of hornbills and various species of birds.
- Care for the Wild International, Retrieved 2012-07-22
- "International Tiger Coalition". Retrieved 2012-03-11.
- "Tigers at Thai Temple Drugged Up or Loved Up?". ABC News. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- Turner Barr (January 29, 2014). Tiger Temple or Tiger Business? Volunteering behind the scenes at Tiger Temple. AroundtheWorldin80Jobs. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
- Turner Barr (November 5, 2013). "The Reality of Tiger Temple: My Final Thoughts on my Volunteering Experiment". Aroundtheworldin80jobs. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
- Turner Barr (February 21, 2014). "7 REASONS TO THINK TWICE BEFORE VISITING THAILAND’S "TIGER TEMPLE"". Matador Network. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
- Jane Mountain (April 14, 2014). "The Nasty Truth About Animal Tourism in Thailand". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
- Turismo Responsable (March 5, 2014). "7 RAZONES PARA NO VISITAR EL TIGER TEMPLE EN TAILANDIA" (in Spanish). Turismo Responsable. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
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