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.
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.
The temples 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. 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?
If the fact that the animals you want a selfie with are beaten, abused and tortured to allow you to do so won’t work, what will?
How about the knowledge that by the time you look back on that selfie that cute little cub has grown up, outlived its purpose and has been sold off to canned hunting farms and butchered for the illegal black market in tiger parts?
How about the fact that it has been replaced with a new cub ripped away from its mother and starved, beaten and abused into complaince and apathy.
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.
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