Each day between 1pm and 4pm, an average of ten tigers are put on public display in the Temple's 'Tiger Canyon' which, at the end of 2007, received 300 - 400 primarily foreign visitors a day. In early 2008 however, a volunteer estimated more than 880 visitors in a single day. Aside from touching and sitting on the tigers, being photographed with a tigers' heads in your lap provides a chief attraction for visiting tourists. Tigers remain in the Canyon for about three hours. There is virtually no shade (except for what is provided to tourists) and temperatures can rise well above 40°C in the sun.
The tigers are led on a short leash from their cages to the Canyon by Temple staff. There, they are chained on fixed 3m - 5m chains, and heavy concrete bowls are against or set close to the tiger’s body to oblige the animal to adopt a good pose for the tourists and maintain it. Tigers are dragged into position by their tail and even punched or beaten to adopt particular postures that appeal to the tourists.
Tiger Temple staff stay close to the animals at all times to maintain control by use of tiger urine squirted from a bottle into the animal's face. In the wild, tigers use urine as a territorial or aggressive signal: sprayed at close quarters it would represent an extremely aggressive gesture from a dominant animal.
The CWI investigation raises concerns about the safety of visitors to the Tiger Temple. There are numerous well-documented and sometimes fatal attacks on humans by 'trained' and apparently mild-mannered captive wild cats. These include attacks during photography sessions. At the Temple, hundreds of visitors, some of them young children, are actively encouraged to make close physical contact with tigers during daily photo sessions. Staff fail to prevent direct contact with the animals even when tigers are behaving aggressively. Furthermore, staff and the Tiger Temple as a whole, are unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with potential emergencies. The Tiger Temple explicitly renounces any responsibility for injuries or damage, by asking visitors to sign a disclaimer at the entrance.
According to its own website 1, the Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanaburi, Thailand widely known as the Tiger Temple and founded in 1994 - acquired its first tiger cubs in 1999/2000. Reportedly, the animals were brought to the Monastery by police and other people who had rescued them from tiger poachers. Since then, more tigers have arrived from other sources (as discussed in this report), and have been bred at the Temple. Others have apparently left the Temple at various times.
The Tiger Temple is open to visitors, who pay an entrance fee, and actively seeks donations to fund its activities. Tigers are put on display for visitors in a dedicated area adjacent to the Temple. This is known as the ‘Tiger Canyon’, which has developed into a successful tourist attraction on the basis of the Temple’s humane claims. Boosted by the screening of promotional material about the Temple on the television channel ‘Animal Planet’ (filmed in December 20032 and shown around the world on the Discovery Network), tourist numbers grew substantially, with estimates averaging 100 - 300 visitors a day. In early 2008, a volunteer estimated more than 880 visitors on one particular day.
Following the worldwide broadcast of a two-part television documentary on the Thai Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, this facility has become a popular tourist destination that attracts hundreds of international visitors each day.
The Tiger Temple's success is based around claims that its tigers were rescued from poachers and live and move freely and peacefully amongst the temple's monks, who are actively engaged in conservation and rescue work. Prompted by concerns raised by tourists and Tiger Temple volunteer workers, Care for the Wild International's (CWI) investigation uncovered disturbing evidence of serious conservation and animal welfare concerns, including:
- illegal tiger trafficking
- systematic physical abuse of the tigers held at the temple, and
- high risk interactions between tigers and tourists.
Tiger temple Location: 38 km from downtown Kanchaburi, in Saiyok District of Kanchanaburi Province