Tiger On Tour: Tiger Temple

Last updated : 09 February 2009 By Andy Beill
Yesterday I visited the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, originally a sort of rescue centre for abandoned tiger cubs but now also a breeding programme. I foolishly told myself that I wanted to see with my own eyes whether this is a good place or not. Of course, it was no better and no more transparent than I could or should have expected.

There were about a dozen tigers lying, chained, on the floor in the heat of the sun, being swatted with hats to keep insects off them and occasionally having water squirted in their mouths.

I'm ashamed to say I was one of the 600 visitors that day to queue up for a few selfish photographs with the tigers. These few moments with the animals was a guilty pleasure; a once in a lifetime opportunity to get so close to a tiger, but an everyday occurrence for them.

The tigers were led away after the photograph session ended, and at this point the crowd were supposed to be able to take photos walking with the tigers. A couple of the tigers got angry at this point and the photos had to be abandoned as the staff got them under control.

The tour doesn't show where the tigers are kept when they've finished work for the day, and there was no real evidence that the staff mistreat the animals. However, in my opinion, the very existence of a place like this is unnatural for wild animals. It takes away everything that is magnificent about wild tigers, besides their aesthetic beauty. It turns them into big, furry cuddly toys. But when they were led away, I saw that their natural instincts are still there, for now. The monks that set this place up may have had good intentions in rescuing abandoned cubs, but turning it into a hugely profitable theme park breeding tigers that will never see the wild is something else.

As sad as I was seeing tigers like this, I'm also disappointed in myself that I made the decision to go, knowing that by my own system of morals it's not a good place. I hope that anybody thinking of visiting the Tiger Temple considers the guilt that may follow.

Just a quick note on the West Brom game as I've only seen short highlights so far. I was hoping to watch a rerun this morning but everywhere is showing the Superbowl. It must be seen an opportunity missed to pick up an extra 2 points and perhaps more importantly a morale boost.

Andy (Tiger on Tour)