Why You Should Not Visit The Tiger Temple

Why You Should Not Visit The Tiger Temple

Posted by Michael Starbuck on 11th Jul 2016

For those who do not know, Tiger Temples are tourist attractions in Thailand where visitors get closer than they ever thought possible to one of the world’s most majestic animals. The tigers they encounter at these so-called “attractions” are far from in their prime though. Instead, they are victims of organisations more interested in profits than the welfare of tigers. The tigers are also victims of the tourists and visitors who pay to see, touch, and take photos of them.

Want to learn more about tiger conservation efforts? Click here to visit our tiger page.

Tiger temples are places no one should visit, and that everyone should work towards getting closed forever.

Tiger Temple

They are called tiger temples because most of them are run by monks in real temples. The concept started under the cloak of conservation, with the monks giving sanctuary to tigers, particularly cubs that had lost their mothers. Whether by accident or design, it has grown into a multi-million dollar industry. That means tens of thousands of tourists visit these temples every year, paying an entrance fee and some additional charges to get up close to a tiger.

At best, the conservation efforts of tiger temples are flawed and misguided, and at worst they are deliberately cruel and criminal.

Thailand Tiger Temple

This is why we have put together the reasons why you should not visit a tiger temple or similar facility in Thailand or anywhere else:

  • Suspected wildlife trafficking - in June 2016, the operators of the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple, known as the Tiger Temple, were accused of wildlife tracking and other offences. This was the most well-known and frequently visited of Thailand’s tiger temple-style facilities. The Tigers have now been removed from the facility by Thai government officials because of the wildlife trafficking accusations and many other cruelty charges. Most wildlife experts believe this is not an isolated incident, and that other, similar facilities are also involved in wildlife trafficking.
  • Illegal trading - many tiger temple facilities are suspected of trading dead and live tigers. They are also believed to trade body parts, including skins. Many of these body parts are highly valuable, particularly in markets like China. Almost all the trade is conducted on the black market.
  • Tiger welfare - the operation at the facility mentioned above was launched after 40 dead tiger cubs were found at the temple. That is about as decisive an indictment of these types of facility as it is possible to get.
  • Illegal breeding - for decades, many wildlife activists have suspected tiger temples are engaged in illegal breeding. Much of this activity is connected to wildlife trafficking and illegal trading activities.
  • Sedation - one of the attractions of a tiger temple for tourists is the opportunity to get close to a tiger. Close means close enough to take a selfie and physically touch the tiger. Operators of the facilities make this safe for visitors by chaining the tigers to the ground, but many visitors and wildlife experts suspect the tigers are also sedated.

Tiger Selfie

  • Tiger abuse - people who have visited tiger temples have also reported what they considered to be abuse of tigers. The practice of chaining the tigers to the ground is regularly criticised, with many people concerned at the lack of free movement offered to the tigers. Also, some report that tigers are chained so close to the ground they are unable to stand up properly. Others report different mistreatment, usually connected to monks trying to rouse a sedated tiger so that a paying visitor can get the perfect picture. This is done by throwing cold water on the tiger, poking it, or pulling its tail.
  • Mutilation - some reports from tiger temples outline tiger mutilations, thought to be connected with making the locations safer for tourists to visit. This includes removing teeth and claws.

The action taken by the government in Thailand to remove tigers from the facility known as the Tiger Temple is heartening, although it remains to be seen how successful it is in completely ending the existence of this particular facility, and the industry in general, for good. Previous attempts have been made, but they have all been thwarted, and the tiger temples have continued.

Thailand Tiger

This brings us to the biggest problem with tiger temples. The reality is that people from all over the world visit these facilities, which in turn makes them hugely profitable operations. While the demand exists, people will find ways to exploit, harm, and kill tigers to make a profit.

In most modern countries, cruelty to animals is deemed unacceptable and is something that happens at the fringes of society. It is therefore time we all stopped dreaming of selfies with tigers, and maybe these barbaric tiger temples will eventually be closed for good.

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