Why Are People Still Visiting Thailand’s Tiger Temple?

Tiger Temple Thailand

Back in April 2015, I wrote about how it was almost the end of Thailand’s infamous Tiger Temple, as officials prepared to raid the compound and shut it down after years of evidence of abuse, neglect and irresponsibility. Yet thanks to an astounding level of corruption they managed to stay open. Now almost a year later there is even more evidence of illegal wildlife trading, and yet it is still open and travellers are still visiting! Why?

I really do not know what to be more astounded and angry at, the fact that this abomination of a temple is still allowed to operate, that almost a decade of evidence of abuse and illegal activity is being ignored, or the fact that tourists still flock there to get their all important selfie with an endangered animal.

Because that makes you such an awesome person, doesn’t it?

Almost a year ago now I was absolutely ecstatic at the news that the tiger temple was being raided. I thought the authorities were finally going to do something about it.  I hoped that the temple would finally be shut down.

The authorities did raid it, they stated very clearly that the tigers would be seized and even the infamous Abbot did a runner to Bangkok, because that is of course what all innocent people do when the authorities are closing in.

But what happened? Nothing.

Some bears and a few species of birds were removed, but that was it.

There were back hand deals and under the table handshakes all round as the charges mysteriously vanished and the temple was allowed to remain open with ‘sanctions’ that everyone knew weren’t going to do anything and were roundly ignored.

So jump to a year later and National Geographic released an article stating that there was new evidence that tigers were being illegally traded on the black market to criminal tiger farms, specifically in Laos.

Tiger Temple Abuse Thailand.

There were concerns that some tigers had disappeared, others had clearly been killed purposely and there was evidence that microchips that were supposed to have been placed in the tigers had been purposely cut out. The Australian group Conservation and Environmental Education For Life released a report detailing the evidence of these crimes and more.

But this is not new! This has been happening for at least a decade now! Back in 2008, the now assimilated Care For The Wild International, a former partner of Bemused Backpacker until it was unfortunately merged with Born Free, released a report  that detailed all of these abuses and more.

“Illegal international trafficking helps to maintain the Temples’ captive tiger population. There is no possibility of the Temples’ breeding programme contributing to the conservation of the species in the wild.” Care For The Wild International.

The abuses since then have been numerous and well documented. I have spoken about them myself on numerous occasions.

There have been almost a decade of instances where tigers have disappeared and new ones obtained as part of illegal wildlife trafficking. They have been linked to an illegal tiger farm in Laos amongst others, in flagrant disregard to both Thai and international law.

Their conservation claims have been dismissed by almost every international animal welfare and wildlife conservation organisation concerned with the issue.

Evidence of abuse is widespread. Although there has been no specific evidence of drugging, which is what a lot of the accusations centered on, the accusations will not go away because the circumstantial evidence is vast, and there is a lot of actual evidence of a wide range of other abuses, including beating, mistreatment, malnutrition and more.

Yet travellers and tourists still continue to flock there! What is wrong with you all?

I don’t usually pass judgement like that, I prefer to give the facts and hope people make the right ethical choice based on a fully informed opinion and my previous articles on the Tiger Temple and the news of it’s raid discuss the facts in much more detail. But what do we have to do here, stand outside the temple and beat visitors round the head with the evidence?

Would that work?

It is blatantly obvious that the authorities won’t do anything, so it is up to us as travellers to do it.

I urge each and every one of you heading to Thailand to not support this despicable attraction. Stop supporting them with your money and allowing the Abbot to get rich and build a fancy new temple by exploiting and abusing a highly endangered species.

There are so many better options for you to see tigers in a much more responsible and sustainable way. Visit a responsible zoo. Support true tiger conservation efforts!

If any of you are heading to Thailand soon, I urge you to stay as far away from this place as possible. Visit and support ethical wildlife sanctuaries instead.

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

Related Articldes

A Photo For Facebook? You’ve Just ‘Liked’ Animal Abuse.

Bemused Backpacker Code Of Responsible Travel.

How To Make Your Gap Year Responsible, Ethical And Sustainable.

Is This The End Of Thailand’s Tiger Temple?

It IS Finally The End Of The Tiger Temple: But What Happens To The Tigers Now?

Thailand.

 

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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Posted in Responsible Travel
22 comments on “Why Are People Still Visiting Thailand’s Tiger Temple?
  1. A huge shout out Michael for putting this piece together. This topic especially is close to our hearts and you smashed it. it’s simple, to the point and extremely readable… The more people that read this article the better, that’s a share from us Sir.

    Prue and Becks.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is absolutely despicable. It should have been closed down a long time ago.

  3. Tim says:

    An important wildlife issue and you are right, people should have stopped going to these places a long time ago. The same applies to elephant rides. Tour companies continue to take their passengers there. My suggestion is that you write a follow-up article detailing what happens to the tigers; photos if possible. You are exposing something that needs continual exposure so keep at it.

    • Thanks Time, appreciate the words of support. I totally agree the tour companies need to continually be challenged on these issues, but the fact is they will kep doing them just as long as they keep making a profit from them. It is up to travellers to show that responsible alternatives are far more profitable.

  4. Can WWF not get involved?

  5. Ilse says:

    I totally agree with you!

    Your plea might be even more effective if you would come up with concreet suggestions and links. Those who desperately want to see tigers than hopefully will go there instead of this sad place.

    • Thanks Ilse, I’ve actually made many suggestions many times. This is the third time I’ve written about the Tiger Temple specifically and I’ve also written about elephant trekking, captive dophin shows and many others, including the responsible alternatives. Just click on some of the links, or in the ‘responsible travel’ section in my sidebar and you’ll see plenty of articles.

  6. mindoe says:

    Thanks for sharing this. During my visit I was well aware of the dark truth behind the Tiger Temple and avoided it. What’s crazy is that there are even signs at the airport and around the city (while we were there) informing people why they shouldn’t visit, yet people just turn a blind eye because they want a photo with a tiger. Truly sad.

    • It’s really common I’m afraid. Too many people choose their own experience above any ethical concerns, I’ve come across this a lot over the years, and some can get really angry when you call them on it too. But the animals welfare doesn’t matter as long as they get their all important social media selfie, right? That’s all they care about.

  7. Thank you for writing this. I’ve read all of your previous posts on the tiger temple and other wildlife issues, and you are doing amazing work in bringing these issues to peoples attention. Kudos.

  8. Dave says:

    I actually had my photo taken with the tigers years back and I never saw evidence of drugging. At the end of the day the monks are saving tigers and my money is going toward that. The tigers don’t seem bothered so why shouldn’t I have a photo taken with them?

    • There are so many things wrong with that statement I don’t even know where to begin Dave. First of all read my other articles on the subject, there are many more types of abuse than just drugging that HAVE been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and although evidence has not yet been found OF drugging, there is enough circumstantial evidence to keep experts in the field searching for it. It has been shown time and time again that the monks are NOT saving the tigers, they are abusing them, trafficking them and actively working AGAINST international conservation efforts. That is NOT helping them. Quite the opposite. You ARE supporting that abuse by giving them your money, but as long as you got your photo and can brag to your mates, that is all that matters, right?

  9. I was totally appalled at the way the Tiger Temple was so widely advertised in every songthaew and tourist booth. It’s like locals were just URGING you to check this place out for a little commission. I stayed far away – I couldn’t stand the idea of watching these drugged creatures in such an unnatural habitat. Thank you for this piece, I will add it to a list of resources I am putting together for my readers on Thailand!

    • Thank you, you should also see my article on elephant trekking! I know what you mean though, the tiger temple has been part of almost every trek and tourist activity for as long as I can remember. Responsible wildlife tourism has taken a LONG time to even get a foothold in Thailand, a country that is so reliant on tourism, but as more of us spread the word about the issues it IS starting to make a difference. A tiny one sure, but it is a start. Thanks for the comment.

  10. Jona says:

    I hope that abbot and all his ‘monks’ (I do use that term lightly) rot in jail!

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