Thailand’s “Tiger Temple” Refuses to Surrender Tigers
Thailand’s famous “Tiger Temple,” formally known as Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, continues to resist efforts by the Thai wildlife authorities to remove 100 of the temple’s more than 150 tigers.
Heavily promoted as a tourist attraction, the monastery in the western province of Kanchanaburi has long been criticized by animal rights activists for allegedly mistreating the tigers for commercial gain. The temple, which breeds the tigers it keeps in captivity, has also been accused of trafficking some of the animals. Acitivists say the tigers are chained up and trained to pose for photos with tourists. In April last year, a former veterinarian to the temple alleged that it had sold at least three of its big cats to buyers in Laos in late 2014.
Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, said his organization had been calling on the temple to remove the tigers because of the increasingly crowded conditions. “The problem is overbreeding,” he said. “They have too many cubs. Right now there are over 150 tigers. Some are missing, too. The [Department of National Parks] must take action.” (Khaosod English)
Khaosod English reported that the temple had earlier agreed to release 50 tigers to the authorities, at the rate of 10 a day, from 20 January for rehousing in a government rescue center. But the release operation was postponed pending “negotiations” with the temple’s influential abbot Phra Wisutthisarathen. “The abbot said he wants to inspect the facility to accommodate the tigers first,” Wiek said. “He’s been delaying this again and again.”
Saiyood Pengboonchoo, a lawyer for Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, said the temple was willing to give up most of its tigers, but declined to say when it might do so. He added that the temple, which operates as three separate entities—the monastery, a corporation that handles commercial activities, and a foundation, had applied for permission to build a zoo to house some of its wild animals.
Previous attempts to remove tigers from Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno have also failed, which Wiek attributed to the influence wielded by the abbot. In April last year, the temple’s monks blocked the gates to prevent forestry officials from confiscating six Asiatic black bears being kept illegally. Officials eventually succeeded in rescuing the bears with the help of about 400 military and police personnel and a crane.
According to a recent exposé by National Geographic, which published new details of the animal trafficking allegations, the temple earns an estimated US$3 million a year from the busloads of tourists who visit pet tiger cubs, walk tigers on leashes, and take selfies with the animals. The exclusive article also suggested that the scale of animal trafficking taking place at the temple was much larger than suggested in previous reports.
Temple Refuses to Release Tigers, Again (Khaosod English)
‘Tiger Temple’ to Give Up Big Cats, Activist Says (Khaosod English)
Tiger Temple trafficking allegations mount (Bangkok Post)
Exclusive: Tiger Temple Accused of Supplying Black Market (National Geographic)
Update – Tiger Temple – Is it nearing the end of the sanctuary of hell………? (Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand)