The Uncovering of the Infamous Tiger Temple

It’s becoming more evident that one of the greatest threats to the animal kingdom is humans. Naturally, the animal kingdom is not without loss. Carnivorous animals hunt for food and various species instinctively protect both their territory and their young. However, humans add something else to the mix; torture—and death—for the sake of entertainment and money.


The Uncovering of the Infamous Tiger Temple

By Kathryn Leckie

Tiger Temple is a Buddhist school and forest temple in western Thailand. The Tiger Temple website describes the attraction as being a ‘sanctuary’ for animals such as tigers and uses words such as ‘free’ and ‘natural’ when describing the daily activities and home of the tigers. It explains how visitors can pet, bathe, take photos and even attend a walk with the leashed animals. The website also includes a testimonial page, where visitors praise Tiger Temple and gush about their experiences.

The Truth About Tiger Temple

Recently the truth of Tiger Temple was not only uncovered, but put to a stop. During a raid of Tiger Temple in June, cruel and unethical practices were uncovered, including 137 tigers, sixty cubs found in a freezer as well as a cache of other endangered species. The suspicions of animal trafficking were confirmed, and the tigers were seized and transported to a new location.

“It is the iconic power and beauty of these elusive forest dwelling cats that has driven man to worship and desire them – to try and capture and tame their wild spirit in the hope of transferring their natural magnificence to them. It is this desire that has led to the wholesale abuse of tigers, both in the wild and in captivity,” says  Vicky Flynn, Head of Brand and Communications at TigerTime (a partner charity of My Green World).

Although the end to Tiger Temple is an achievement, it also represents a larger failure. Numerous reports already existed regarding the treatment of the tigers at Tiger Temple.

In January 2016, the World Animal Protection reported on the removal of five tigers due to abuse.
Suspicions of Tiger Temple being involved in animal trafficking existed since before 2015, also discussed by World Animal Protection and a host of other animal welfare organisations. In 2008, National Geographic highlighted reports of Tiger Temple being involved with a Tiger Farm – which was involved in selling tiger parts on the black market — as well as the staff treating the tigers cruelly. The article even reported rumours of Tiger Temple swapping out ‘old’ tigers for ‘new’ younger tigers, by giving them the same name so the public was left in the dark. Cee4life’s investigative report on Tiger Temple gives a wealth of evidence on both cruelty and trafficking, and also reveals that the cruelty dates back to Tiger Temple’s inception in 1994.

The list of past articles regarding the practices and suspicions of animal trafficking at Tiger Temple go on and on. Despite many reports over the years, only recently was action actually taken against the facility to shut it down. Amongst the shocked members of the public upon discovery and the final conclusion of Tiger Temple, there were still posts on social media refusing to believe the ‘kind tourist attraction’ they visited was at fault. However, there were also people, groups and companies who reported on the cruelty for years asking, “what took you so long?”

The End of Tiger Temple

Since the closure of Tiger Temple a few months ago, there have been minimal reports of the current conditions of the tigers. Some reports, such as one from the New Zealand Herald, claim that the tigers are “struggling to adjust” to their new locations. The animal entertainment industry is reportedly still growing, with the priority of the welfare of the animals themselves remaining low. Due to this factor, it is difficult to simply assume the tigers are located where conservation and happy living conditions are the priority.

One facility of many has been shut down, and some have hope that this is the beginning of the end for cruelty against tigers. But despite this, the demand still remains, and when there is a demand, there will be an industry. In order to not only stop but prevent cruelty and exploitation for the sake of entertainment, we need to begin at the core; stop the support so the industry has no choice but to shut down.

The Bigger Picture

The recent events surrounding Tiger Temple are shocking, but they are only a small portion of the reality of what is happening to tigers globally. Vicky Flynn says that the events of Tiger Temple are “a tiny tip of the iceberg. Wild tigers have been in crisis for over a century—numbers plummeted from 100,000 at the turn of the 20th century to as few as 3,500 today”. Flynn also says that although stopping support to the animal entertainment industry is needed, “bringing the species up the media agenda is equally important” so governments and societies realise the desperate need to save the tigers in both their natural habitats and from the punishing hand of humankind.

Get Involved

♣ Read more about the use of tigers for medicinal purposes here.

♣ Support TigerTime and the join the fight for wild tigers here.

♣ Download our mobile game app, World of the Wild! Click here to download.

♣ Sign up for My Green World’s newsletter here.

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