KANCHANABURI – Thailand’s famous Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination, is misleading tourists into believing that it is a tiger sanctuary when it is actually nothing more than a money-making petting zoo where the animals must suffer mistreatment on a daily basis, says a new report.
Temple of Lies, by Care for the Wild International, reports on the controversial Temple in Kanchanaburi. Aiming to discover if controversy about the establishment has merit, the charity can reveal the following concerns:
Animal welfare issues
- Tigers are kept in bare enclosures well below international standards
- Tigers are kept locked up for the majority of the day
- Tigers are manhandled, hit, sat on and generally forced to perform for the public
- Tourists must sign a disclaimer on entry removing the Temple of blame for injuries
- There are no safety zones, visible panic buttons or equipment in case of emergency
- The only safety briefing given to visitors is: ‘If at any time you run in front of the tigers, your day will end miserably’
- The Temple is neither a sanctuary nor a recognized conservation NGO, but all charges are billed as ‘donations’. No tiger has ever been released.
- The Temple claims to have 17 tigers, seven of which were orphans – but the reality is that, according to staff they have more than 100, most of which were bred on site for the sole purpose of making a profit
- The Tiger Temple is making an estimated $1m+ profit a year, but with no evidence of this going into tiger conservation
- Visitors are very unlikely to be covered by their travel insurance if they suffer injury or worse, at the Tiger Temple
- Signing a disclaimer, and undergoing a high-risk activity – EG having your photograph taken with a tiger – is likely to void any claim.
Care for the Wild CEO Philip Mansbridge, who visited the Tiger Temple personally to assess the claims and risks, said: “If you think Tiger Temple is some kind of spiritual tiger sanctuary, it isn’t. If you think they rescue abused tigers, or that the tigers will be released into the wild, they won’t be. If you think that a tiger wants to live in a small bare cage, have a chain around its neck and have tourists sit on its back, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. And if you think that, on the off-chance you might get injured, your insurance will cover you – it won’t.
Glorified petting zoo
“Tiger Temple is nothing but a glorified petting zoo where you are risking injury, or worse, while contributing to the suffering of once magnificent animals. That fact won’t stop some people going there to get their Facebook picture of a lifetime – and that’s their choice. But we don’t think this is the way that real animal lovers want to see tigers.”
‘Exploiting the tiger’
Temple of Lies follows a previous report on the Tiger Temple by Care for the Wild International called ‘Exploiting the Tiger‘, produced in 2008. The report used information gathered from a variety of sources between 2005 and 2008 and uncovered disturbing evidence of serious conservation and animal welfare concerns, including:
- Illegal tiger trafficking
- Systematic physical abuse of the tigers held at the temple
- High risk interactions between tigers and tourists.
Philip Mansbridge added: “The 2008 report opened people’s eyes to what was going on at what was becoming an extremely popular tourist destination. It also provoked a lot of debate – some people are very defensive of the Temple, and perhaps feel that it is providing a place where people can see a wonderful animal.
“Because of our RIGHT-tourism.org website, which gives tourists factual advice on being animal-friendly, we felt it was time to go back, and see what the reality is now at the Temple. In essence, it’s not changed. It’s a zoo where you can pet tigers, so if that’s where you want to go, that’s fair enough. But please don’t go thinking that the tigers are living in some spiritual idyll, or that they will one day be released back into the wild – they aren’t, and they won’t.”
Travel insurance void?
In regards to the void-insurance angle, Mr Mansbridge added: “The many thousands of tourists who go to the Tiger Temple will probably be shocked to know that their travel insurance won’t cover them if they get hurt. We contacted several travel insurance companies to ask if they’d pay up if someone got injured – or worse – and the vast majority said no. The combination of the fact that even the simplest activity at the Temple – having your photograph taken with a tiger – is considered high-risk, plus the fact that people sign a Disclaimer when they go in, makes it a no-brainer. So people need to consider whether that photo really is worth the risk.”
For more information, please see the full report at www.careforthewild.com. For factual information on animal-related tourist attractions in every country of the world, see www.RIGHT-tourism.org.
Care for the Wild is a charity based in Sussex dedicated to the protection of wildlife in the UK and abroad. For more information see www.careforthewild.com.