After years of false starts, impotent warnings and failed attempts, the Thai authorities have finally grown a backbone and confiscated all of the tigers in the infamous tiger temple, essentially shutting it down, and it is about damn time.
It was just a year ago that the first, farcical confiscation attempt was made after years of accusations of abuse, illegal breeding and trafficking had been leveled at the temple. It looked as if – at the time – every tiger and animal in the temple would be rescued and the entire place shut down. This was a time when – fearful of arrest – the supposedly Buddhist Abbot did a runner to Bangkok and went into hiding for months, and authorities naively relied on the cooperation of the monks, who simply refused to hand the tigers over.
Not long after that, in a sickening display of greed and corruption, the Thai authorities simply backed off and allowed the tigers to remain at the temple. Despite some very strongly worded rhetoric about the tigers now being ‘legally confiscated state assets under the responsibility of the parks department’, and the monk supposedly no longer being allowed to charge tourists to take pictures with them, the Tiger Temple viewed this as a victory and carried on as normal. Basically sticking two fingers up to the authorities and anyone who gives a damn about wildlife protection, and saying they can do whatever the hell they like.
Money it seems, speaks very loudly.
Since then, things seemed to get worse as the Thai authorities appeared to grant a zoo licence to the temple, despite a huge outcry from wildlife protection groups, conservation charities and a whole host of other academics and organisations. Even a report by National Geographic and Cee4Life, that built on the earlier work by the former wildlife charity and partner to Bemused Backpacker Care For The Wild International, seemed to hold little sway.
*Update: Since this article was published the charity and partners of Bemused Backpacker, Care For The Wild International, were unfortunately closed down and swallowed up by Born Free who do not share all of the same goals and principles of Care For The Wild International. Unfortunately this also means the amazing RIGHT tourism campaign is now defunct. This is a huge loss to the conservation world but their message of responsible wildlife tourism lives on.
Almost a decade of back and forth battles, accusations and condemnation from almost every wildlife conservation charity, academics, international conservation organisations and even the general public were seemingly being completely ignored.
But in a dramatic turnaround – not at all due to the sheer amount of international pressure and scrutiny I am sure – it seems now that the Tiger Temple has finally been shut down!
On the 30th May 2016, Thai officials descended on the Tiger Temple and finally began a week long operation to confiscate and remove all 136 tigers that were being held at this despicable excuse for a tourist attraction.
This time, according to Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, they had an actual court warrant that gave them the authority to ignore the monks and legally enforce the tigers removal.
It is about damn time!
The Tiger Temple has for years been accused of neglect, abuse, illegal breeding, illegal wildlife trafficking, the murder – or ‘disappearance’ – of these majestic animals and the sale of body parts to the mainly Chinese traditional medicine market.
The monks, officials at the temple and even the naively misguided ‘volunteers’ who worked there vehemently denied any wrongdoing at all for years, despite the heavy weight of evidence that was stacked up against them.
Yet now that tourists have been denied entry, the tigers are being removed and authorities are thoroughly searching the temple, concrete evidence has been found linking them to these crimes in the form of dozens of dead tiger kittens and body parts stuffed into freezers.
More and more evidence of criminal activity and abuse on a vast scale is being found every single day inside the temple, evidence that so many volunteers, workers and monks vehemently denied even existed for years, and cases are finally being built up to ensure criminal convictions. Even more evidence is being found linking the Abbot and the temple to an international wildlife trafficking network, and monks and other workers have been arrested for attempting to smuggle body parts, skins and fangs out from the temple, some that had already been made up into jewellery and traditional medicine destined for the black market.
And Now This despicable temple is closed. For good.
I cannot express enough how happy I am to hear the news that the Tiger Temple is finally being shut down. I hope now that not only will travellers see the unethical attraction for what it really is and every single monk and worker in there is prosecuted to the full strength of Thai and international law. I have been urging people to boycott the Tiger Temple for years and could not hide my sheer anger and frustration and past setbacks, but it finally seems that it is the end of this sickening excuse for a tourist attraction.
Selfish, unthinking tourists will have to get their tiger selfies with a stuffed toy, the supposed monks will have to find another cash cow to milk money from the lucrative tourism industry, and the infamous Abbot will have to find another way to fund the building of his private multi million pound monastery.
It Isn’t Over Yet.
The tigers are currently being taken to government facilities and refuges in Ratchaburi province as a temporary measure. No exact details have been given at the time of writing.
I fully take on board the argument that these facilities may not be perfect, but at the very least they will no longer be abused and exploited for tourists pleasure and amusement, and that has to be a vast improvement on their quality of life.
Either way, the tigers cannot be kept in temporary enclosures forever, and it is my hope that the international community will keep up the pressure and the scrutiny that has forced the Thai authorities to act so far, and wildlife conservation charities and organisations will work alongside the Thai government to create something better for these rescued tigers.
It is obvious they will never be able to be reintroduced back into the wild, but they can at least have the next best thing if a large area of Thailand’s vast national parks were set aside as a true sanctuary for them. After a lifetime of abuse, it is the very least they deserve.
The Thai authorities have a real chance to learn exactly how profitable real responsible and ethical tourism can be. They can respond to the cries of the international community and still reap the benefits of the tourism industry by protecting and caring for the very resource travellers want to see.
I have said before, I am both glad and relieved that these tigers will no longer be props for tourists who don’t know any better, but there is a real opportunity here to make a real difference and I hope both the Thai government and the international community will take it.
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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?
Amazing news, and as you say about time! Let’s hope it sticks this time and this place is fully shut down for good!
Let’s hope so, and after undeniable evidence of trafficking and body part supplying to the black market has now been found, let’s hope there are some prosecutions too!
I really cannot believe this issue has dragged on for so long! What was stopping them closing the Tiger Temple down years ago with all that evidence?
Neither can I Stephanie, all I will say is it is funny what a few nice backhanders can do!
I hope the tigers finally get some peace in wherever they are rehomed. The abuse they have suffered in this place is nothing short of a national disgrace, The Thailand authorities should be ashamed they didn’t do anything sooner!
Totally agree Laura, well said.
Shame on Thailand. …..monks ……..good for nothing……and this Chinese medicine market should also be banned …..China is headache to the natural resources disaster ……..
Never trust someone just because they practice a religion. These Monks are evil, not bhuddist.
The abuse the tigers suffered hardly upheld Buddhist philosophy did it?
That Tiger temple in Thailand I regret I visited it i never knew then 9 years ago..let me string those monks !
At least you know now and can change your behaviour in the future?
The fact they found all those cubs and body parts is just heartbreaking, but comes as no real surprise, especially after reading all your previous posts and the report that CFTW did, as well as Nat Geo. I’m glad they have finally raided the temple and hope they throw away the key!
I hope so to Alice. Thank you for the comment.
Can world governments not just boycott Thailand until they stop all the monstrous animal cruelty?
I understand the anger Martin I do, but boycotting countries never helps. Thailand is an amazing place with so many good things going for it. Boycotting individual attractions like this though, that is a whole different story.
I hope this will serve as a wake up call to all those f****** idiots who posed for a selfie with them. About time this excuse of a place was torn down!
I agree, and I will happily be the first to volunteer to drive the bulldozer!
And this why you don’t pay to sit next to a sedated Tiger! I’m so happy they are finally ending this sickening abuse.
Me too! Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Anyone that has ever visited Tiger Temple should feel utterly ashamed. About time it was closed down.
I’m so glad it has shut down too. I hope now that it stays that way.
I visited here a few years ago and to be honest when a monk told me they weren’t drugged, I believed them. Not everybody is bad, just ignorant.
I completely understand Lowri, many people have fallen for the well rehearsed greenwashing. The monks are accomplished con artists and have a huge, well funded PR machine behind them. No one is blaming anyone for their actions when they didn’t know the reality, it is about educating those who don’t know, and then seeing what people do with that information. Those who DO know and still go and get that all important selfie, those people I reserve my anger and disgust for.
Go to tiger kingdom instead, they are much better and genuine, and the tigers are very well taken care of.
Actually Nick that is far from true, the Tiger Kingdom is much of the same, and should be boycotted with as much vehemence as I campaigned for with the Tiger Kingdom until it is shut down just as unceremoniously.
The tigers there live a lot longer than those in the wild and there is no evidence of abuse, and they are helping tiger conservation, yes there are many zoos that are terrible but there are many that use the funds to help wild life and the environment.
I’m sorry to have to tell you Nick but that isn’t true at all.
On your final point you are half right. There are many amazing zoos that do a lot of good work for wildlife protection and conservation, I am as much an advocate for the good zoos out there as I am for wildlife conservation. You can see my full reasoning and arguments on the topic here … https://bemusedbackpacker.com/2016/02/15/why-zoos-are-an-important-part-of-responsible-wildlife-tourism/
However, this Tiger Temple, or the Tiger Kingdom that you mention are in no way, shape or form an example of a ‘good’ zoo. They do nothing for wildlife protection or conservation, in fact there is a lot of evidence that they actively hurt it, and they do abuse the tigers in a variety of ways. It is absolutely vital that you don’t confuse these despicable, exploitative tourist attractions for real, responsible zoos.
One down, many more to go.
I definitely think they are going in the right direction with this decision! But I hope that the tigers get sent to sanctuaries instead of placed in temporary holding. I’m glad the attention has been shifted to Tiger Temples, I know there is a lot of public outcry at the recent elephant death in Angkor Wat so let’s hope the international community keeps pushing for ethical treatment for elephants too!
I think they will be placed in sanctuaries eventually, temporary means just that at the end of the day. The big problems in Thailand at the moment are a) ensuring those sanctuaries are there and are suitable, and b) shutting down the rest of the tiger tourism industry.
Yes I do hope they will continue to push for those things! I read that some concerns regarding the temporary holding being actually just temporary or not, either way, I hope the tigers get some decent care!