The famous “Tiger temple” in Western Thailand – Kanchanaburi – is a kind of polarizing place. Some animal activists claim they’re abusing tigers for profit, and it’s understandable why they think that.
Many years ago it started out with the monks taking care of tigers, and then it became more and more popular and nowadays is a famous tourist attraction.
As a foreigner you have to pay 600 Baht to get inside – double the price that Thai people have to pay to get inside. Some people argue: “These are Buddhist monks, why do they have to charge double for foreigners?”
There are accusations of greed and mistreatment of the tigers, and discussions about whether monks should be allowed to maintain such an operation.
But so far no one could ever prove that the animals there are treated badly, or sedated, although this claim is widely spread around the internet.
The Thai National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department chief Damrong Pidech recently said after an inspection of the temple grounds:
“I have come here to take a look at the living conditions of these tigers. Frankly speaking, their living conditions are better than those in state-owned zoos. If I move them out of here, I am afraid their living conditions might not be as good.”
Bangkok Post, 11 September 2012, Temple tiger numbers face cut
While it is true that a temple were hundreds of tourists come every month to look at the tigers and take pictures with them isn’t the “right way” for a tiger to life – one should ask: what’s the alternative?
A state-owned zoo is not, and most private zoos in Southeast Asia aren’t either.
Sure, in a perfect world we could just set them free – but in reality it’s not as easy as that.
The temple has high running costs – tigers require large amounts of food and then there are expenses for medical care. According to the aforementioned Bangkok Post article, there are 99 tigers living on the temple grounds now. Obviously the money for taking care of those tigers must come from somewhere – and it might be a wise choice to cover costs by running a business rather than solely relying on donations.
In our opinion, as long as there is no evidence of mistreatment of the tigers or corruption the monks should be supported. What do you think?
Loyd and her friends recently have visited the tiger temple in Kanchanaburi and have blogged about it here, a good write-up with plenty of awesome pictures.