A Tiger Temple That Pawed Its Way to Disgrace in Thailand

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The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi-News Time Now

The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province in Thailand was a disgrace as the authorities were involved in illegal activities. The Temple is now shut.

The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi-News Time NowIn the last paragraph of part 1 of the series, I had made a mention of the famous” Tiger Park” in Pattaya. But the `Tiger Park’ cannot be discussed in isolation without first making a reference to the infamous “Tiger Temple” in Kanchanaburi Province, which is reachable by road from Bangkok in 4 hours.

Read Part 1 Here; Lure of Bangkok – a Trading Post That is Now World’s Tourist Destination

In this province was located, until 2016, an unusual kind of Temple consisting of large number of Indochinese tigers. The “Tiger Temple”, as it was called, which had been founded in 1993, had acquired international fame because most visitors to Thailand would include this Temple in their tour​ itinerary.​ So did I when I visited Thailand in 2013. Inside this Temple, tourists had an opportunity to take the Tigers for a walk and even pet them as they were lying down quietly in artificially constructed caves (of course one always had a slight suspicion that the tigers had a glazed look and drooping eyelids!). As its fame grew, the Temple authorities were accused of drugging the tigers, which accounted for their docility.

However, allegations of drugging, mistreatment, and trafficking the tigers for commercial gain, leveled by certain animal rights activists were investigated into in 2005 and charges dropped as baseless

The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi-News Time NowNevertheless, when such allegations continued to be leveled, a more detailed investigation was taken up in 2016. Raids jointly conducted by Thailand’s National parks, Wildlife and plant conservation department, found evidence which conclusively proved that there was in fact such mistreatment and also illicit trade in the anatomical parts (tiger skin, claws etc) of tigers for commercial gain, by unscrupulous temple officials, with the kingpin being the Temple Abbot.

In all, the raids resulted in finding about 137 exploited tigers. The authorities who conducted the raids also found in freezers, the frozen bodies of 40 cubs, some of them dead since 2011. Efforts were made immediately to find a sanctuary for the rescued tigers. Prosecution was also launched against the Temple officials who were found guilty under various sections of the Law. The infamous Temple has been closed since 2016.

The scandal in respect of the `Tiger Temple’ shocked the Nation. It was felt that it was a blot on the reputation of a nation 90 percent of whose population follows Buddhism- a religion that advocates nonviolence, as its main tenet.

The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi-News Time NowFortunately for Thailand, a ` Tiger Park’ free from any sort of allegation, had been independently founded by a person named Navaphol Chakchuan, in the city of Pattaya, situated 100 kilometres southeast of Bangkok. The clean image of this Park effectively neutralised the scandal, caused by the “Tiger Temple”, enabling the Tourist Department to heave a sigh of relief.

The avowed aim of the Park authorities was the conservation of `Panthera Tigers” in Thailand and to give visitors an opportunity to interact with them in an allegation-free atmosphere completely devoid of the kind of crime, scandal, and nefarious activities associated with the “Tiger Temple” of Kanchanaburi.

It is also not surprising that no mention of the closed “Tiger Temple” is now made by the Tourism Department. The Department does not make any mention of the disgraced Tiger Temple, in its brochures. Naturally the question of hotels arranging for excursions to the Temple, also does not arise. It is as though the “Tiger Temple” has been deliberately erased from the memories of the people of Thailand, and such a Temple never existed!

On the other hand, the “Tiger Park” in Pattaya has become a major tourist attraction. No tourist visiting Thailand today, returns to his country without having visited the Park. In the third and last part of the article I shall discuss the “Tiger Park” in detail.

To be continued…

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