Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tiger Tale

Holy monks living in complete harmony with wild animals. What could be more touching and endearing? Well, almost anything! Wat Pha Lung Ta Bua has been on the main tourist trail in Thailand for more than a decade now. For a hefty charge of US$20 you can visit the temple and have your picture taken with a real live apparently tame tiger, or photograph the monks cuddling them. Who wouldn’t want that? Well, the tigers for one. For quite a while now the rumor has been circulating that the tigers in this temple are docile because they are drugged. Combine mass tourism and money with religion and the results are rarely inspiring, and this is particually so in Buddhist Asia. That the Wat is little more than a money-making racket is hardly a surprise – such things are common enough in Thailand. But now concerned animal welfare advocates have obtained hard evidence that something much more unpleasant than common garden variety greed is going on at the Wat. The tigers are, it seems, being bred to be sold on to the illegal wildlife market – i.e. being killed for their various body parts. Concerned people have started a petition to have something done about this sad (for the tigers) and shameful (for the monks) situation. Although well intentioned, I fear that petition will fall foul of the Thai approach to so many problems; “Mai pen rai”, “Don’t worry about it”. But you never know. Miracles do happen. So read the facts and sign the partition anyway.


Ken and Visakha said...

Having visited here, I am surprised by the shocked tone in this diatribe.
The tigers, as I understood it, were brought mainly as cubs after their mothers were killed by poachers. Some were bred (not bread) there.
I never saw any exploitation. I did appreciate the setting and a chance to see some beautiful big cats who looked very healthy.
The booklet we received was quite interesting about the different personalities of the animals.

What would happen if the temple refuge were closed down? And since when is $20 big money, anyway? I certainly would like more proof, not just wild speculation and accusation.

Recently there was a petition to stop the "exploitation" of draft horses in New York City -- where there are strict regulations limiting the hours, work in extreme heat or cold is not allowed etc. etc. The alternative to the present situation would be cab men out of work and no more horses pulling carriages in NYC.

Thailand doesn't have much left in the way of jungle. I'd really need some convincing before I'd believe the sloppy accusations let alone sign this petition.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Ken and Vesakha, few would object to paying $20 if it genuinely went to helping tigers in some way. However it is fair to point out that there has been serious doubts about Wat Pah Lung Ta Bua for quite some time. See the links on the Wikipedia article ‘Tiger Temple’ for details. It is also difficult to understand why several reputable animal rights and environmental groups would be down on the Wat if it was really doing something worthwhile for tiger preservation. However, now that these more serious charges have been made let’s see if other recognized groups come to the Wat’s defence so that we are in a better position to judge.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Wilfried,
Please contact me on

Russell said...

Well the "Wat" has been a tourist attraction for well over 10 years now. The idea of an apex predator behaving in an utterly unnatural manner...just because of the "Metta" of some monks...ignoring the 1000 or more tourists who show up everyday, is just absurd.

The tigers are fed to the gills, which wouldn't be healthy for them anyway, so that they ignore the easy, if rather bad tasting, meat on offer in the form of tourists.

That the entire show is a money make exercise shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone with a sliver of intelligence.

Blogger said...

Can we have a tiger which believes in non-violence ? No, according to Jairam Ramesh.

''A tiger which believes in Buddhism, is no tiger at all,'' he said in the Rajya Sabha.

He was asked whether Tigers could be reared like it was being done in Thailand by some Buddhist monks in a monastery.

He said he did not believe in Buddhism so far as tiger conservation was concerned.

''Tigers belong to the wild and should be conserved in that environment,'' he added.

Tigers do not believe in Buddhism, he said amid laughter.

maha50 said...

When I visited the place a few years ago I noticed tigers being confined to small low cages barely big enough to turn around. There were a lot of small cubs and the monks admitted they were being bred. It's very clear the place is a breeding farm and the tigers are being domesticated. It's not a natural setting where they would be allowed to roam and exhibit natural behaviours. I would agree that it is a money making exercise and that would include selling them for body parts.