The Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanaburi, more commonly known as the Tiger Temple is a popular tourist attraction in Thailand. The ethos of the tiger temple is that tourism pays for the care of several tigers kept at the facility. Some of the tigers are taken daily to ‘Tiger Canyon’ where tourists pay to pet and have their photos taken with the tigers. Tourist numbers are reported to average between 100 and 300 visitors per day. The tigers are kept in the canyon area for about three hours a day, where there is virtually no shade (except for what is provided to tourists) and temperatures can rise well above 40°C in the sun.
We’ve put this page together to voice our concerns over the Tiger Temple, show how we found out about the tiger temple and what we’ve done about it, and to educate travellers of the animal welfare issues at the site.
|The poor animal welfare standards at the Tiger Temple were first brought to our attention when a concerned traveller sent us their report from their visit to the popular tourist attraction. Her holiday wasn't booked via responsibletravel.com but she contacted us as she was keen to tell us of her experience and raise awareness of the issue.
“The animal cruelty and abuse at the Temple was blatant and obvious to me from the minute I arrived.” Worried traveller
|A quick search on the internet found that many tourists enjoyed their visits to the tiger temple but other websites listed ways that the animal care at the Tiger Temple was below standard. A youtube search found many videos of children sitting on tigers and people petting these unpredictable wild animals.
We then approached several of our tour operators in Asia to ask their opinion on the Tiger Temple, some of which expressed their concerns as to where the tigers would go if the facility did not exist.
“The place is certainly nowhere near perfect, certainly by Western conservation beliefs, however, they are doing the best they can in the circumstances. Certainly, the alternative options for those tigers in Thailand would not be pretty.” Concerned tour operator
Care for the Wild International has identified a suitable facility in Thailand that the tigers could be moved to. CWI has offered its assistance in fundraising and supporting the removal of the tigers from the Tiger Temple to a new location on the basis that it meets the following requirements: that the enclosures are large and with pools, it has a 'no-breeding' policy, and that it prohibits physical contact between animals and the public.
According the Care for the Wild, the main problems at the Tiger Temple are-
The Temple has been actively involved in illegally trading and exchanging of tigers across international borders in Lao PDR.
Animal welfare problems at the Temple are severe and include poor accommodation, lack of appropriate environments, veterinary problems and deliberate physical abuse of the tigers to make them compliant.
Despite its claims, the Temple makes no discernable contribution to tiger conservation nor will they ever be able to, due to the unknown species of their tigers.
Visitors’ safety is compromised with close proximity with the tigers.
Staff fail to prevent direct contact with the animals even when tigers are behaving aggressively. Furthermore, staff and the Temple as a whole, are unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with potential emergencies. The Tiger Temple explicitly renounces any responsibility for injuries or damage by asking visitors to sign a disclaimer at the entrance. CWI
Since then, Care for the Wild have released a report on the tiger temple.
|We had one trip on our site that included a visit to the tiger temple. This was promptly taken offline. We also asked The Born Free foundation for their views. Although they did not have a report on the site they were aware of the poor welfare conditions from their zoo check programme. We also raised the subject of animal welfare in tourism to our members so other tour operators could discuss the issues.
“It appears that the monks are not experienced in tiger care, and their reported plans to extend the enclosures to breed more tigers for release into the wild is of great concern.” Born Free
What does CWI hope to achieve with the release of this report?
CWI is calling for the immediate cessation of all illegal tiger trade, exchange and transfer activities, and requests the Thai Department of National Parks (DNP) to conduct a full investigation on the Temple.
CWI is urging the DNP to confiscate the Temple's illegally held tigers and transfer them to a sanctuary facility, where the animals can be accommodated and cared for appropriately.
CWI is urging the DNP to halt to all tiger breeding activities with immediate effect.
CWI is calling for all photo-taking and physical contact between tigers and visitors to be stopped immediately.
It is now our policy not to accept any trips on responsibletravel.com that visit the tiger temple. We have also asked our tour operators avoid the site.
For more information about Care for the Wild see their website here
For more information on animal welfare issues in tourism, please see our animal welfare section here
For more information on our views on animal welfare issues, please see our stance on wildlife
If you love tigers and want to see them, then why not look for them in the wild on one of our tiger safaris