Tiger Temple, Thailand

Update - September 2018

Following increasing controversy over the Tiger Temple, on May 30th 2016 the Thai police and wildlife authorities began to remove the tigers, and the site has been closed since then. Tragically, the bodies of 40 newborn tiger cubs were also discovered in a freezer during the raid; it is not yet known how long they had been there or what they would have been used for. Criminal charges have been brought against the monks at the Tiger Temple, and the authorities claim the tigers are being rehomed in state-owned sanctuaries. Investigations into links between Tiger Temple and the illegal wildlife trade are still ongoing.

Worryingly, in 2017, reports suggested that a new zoo was to open next door to the disgraced temple. World Animal Protection reported that Golden Tiger Co had a provisional license to operate as a zoo. It launched a petition to prevent a full license being granted, as although such a license would include certain welfare standards, it would still not ban the breeding of tigers or prohibit tourist interactions with them. Read on to find out more about the history of the Tiger Temple and why Responsible Travel boycotted it.

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 travelers of the animal welfare issues at the site.

How we heard about the tiger temple

The poor animal welfare standards at the Tiger Temple were first brought to our attention when a concerned traveler sent us their report from their visit to the popular tourist attraction. Her vacation wasn't booked via Responsible Travel but she contacted us as she was keen to tell us of her experience and raise awareness of the issue.

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.

Care for the Wild International (CWI) 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.
Animal welfare & visitor safety

Animal welfare & visitor safety at the tiger temple

According the Care for the Wild, the main problems at the Tiger Temple are-
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.

what we did about the tiger temple

We do not promote any vacations that visit the Tiger Temple. We spoke to Born Free, who although they had not at the time done a full Zoo check they had serious concerns about Tiger Temple. We also raised the subject of animal welfare in tourism to our members so other tour operators could act.

It appears that the monks are not experience 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

the report by care of the wild

Since then, Care for the Wild have released a report on the tiger temple.

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.
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: Annie Spratt] [Chained tiger: Care for the Wild International] [Boy and tiger: Care for the Wild International] [Sleeping tiger chained: Care for the Wild International] [Tourist and tiger: Care for the Wild International]