Tiger Temple

Last updated

Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, was a Theravada Buddhist temple in the Sai Yok District of Thailand's Kanchanaburi Province in the west of the country. It was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals, among them tigers, mostly Indochinese tigers. A "commercial" temple, Tiger Temple charged an admission fee.

Contents

The temple has long been accused by animal rights activists of mistreating the tigers for commercial gain and even trafficking some of its animals, [1] though in 2005 it was cleared of allegations of animal mistreatment in an investigation by wildlife officials and a raid by Thai soldiers. Charges were pressed for unlicensed possession of 38 protected birds found on the temple grounds. [2]

In May 2016, the Thailand Wildlife Conservation Office (WCO) began capturing and relocating the tigers, intending to close the facility. [3] [4] Authorities counted 137 tigers on the premises, and the frozen bodies of 40 cubs, some of them dead for more than five years. [5]

The tigers

Monk walking tiger on a leash Male Tiger, Tiger Temple, Thailand.jpg
Monk walking tiger on a leash
Monk and tigers during walk in the quarry Wat Phra Luang Ta Bua.jpg
Monk and tigers during walk in the quarry
Visitors can take a photo with a grown tiger or a small cub Tigertemple.jpg
Visitors can take a photo with a grown tiger or a small cub

In 1999, the temple received its first tiger cub, one that had been found by villagers. It died soon after. Later, several tiger cubs were given to the temple. As of January 2016, the number of tigers confined at the temple exceeded 150. [1]

The original eight tigers brought to the temple were rescues, and thus far DNA data is incomplete and therefore unavailable to the public, as the pedigree of the tigers is not entirely known. However, it is presumed that they are Indochinese tigers, except Mek, a Bengal tiger. It is possible that some may be the newly discovered Malayan tigers, as well as cross breeds or hybrids.

Issues, reports, and controversy

Critics charge that the Tiger Temple is a criminal organization. An NGO, Care for the Wild International, claimed that based on information collected between 2005 and 2008, the Tiger Temple is involved in clandestine exchange of tigers with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos, contravening the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and laws of Thailand and Laos. It charged the temple with operating as a tiger breeding facility without having a license as required under the Thai Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act of 1992. [6]

According to Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends of Thailand, the temple's operations violate CITES, an international treaty on wildlife to which Thailand is a signatory, which bans commercial breeding of protected wild animals such as tigers. All previous attempts by authorities to remove the tigers from Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno have failed, including one in May 2015. Wiek believes this is due to the influence wielded by the temple and its abbot, Phra Wisutthisarathen. [1]

Based on the Care for the Wild International report, a coalition of 39 conservation groups, including the Humane Society International, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, World Animal Protection, and the World Wide Fund for Nature, sent a letter to the director general of National Parks of Thailand under the name "The International Tiger Coalition". [7] The letter urged the director general to take action against the Tiger Temple over its import and export of 12 tigers with Laos, its lack of connection with accredited conservation breeding programs, and to genetically test the tigers at the Tiger Temple to determine their pedigree and value to tiger conservation programs. It concludes that the temple does not have the facilities, the skills, the relationships with accredited zoos, or even the desire to manage its tigers in an appropriate fashion. Instead, it is motivated purely by profit.

In December 2006, ABC News spent three days at the temple and did not see any evidence of drugging or mistreating the animals. Both Thai and Western employees who were interviewed claimed that the animals were well-treated. The abbot of the monastery stated that the eventual goal was to breed tigers for release into the wild. [8]

In 2014, Care for the Wild International called for an end to "tiger selfies" in a global campaign coinciding with International Tiger Day. The charity's CEO, Philip Mansbridge, was quoted as saying: "I know people will immediately think we're overreacting or just out to spoil people's fun. But the reality is, one quick pic for you means a lifetime of suffering for that animal." The charity estimates that there are up to 60 incidents a year (of varying severity) of captive tigers mauling tourists or volunteers at places like Tiger Temple. [9]

On 2 February 2015, an investigation of the temple commenced by forest officials. After initially being rebuffed, they returned the following day with a warrant, police, and soldiers. They seized protected wild birds and impounded the tigers on the premises. The head of the Wildlife Crime Suspension office stated the park did not have the proper permits for raising the birds. The tigers were impounded pending further investigation into the tigers' documentation. [10] [11]

In January and May 2016, two reports spanning nine years of investigations were released by the Australian organisation Cee4life (Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life) [12] The first Cee4life report contains CCTV, recordings, and witness statements regarding the disappearance of tigers at Tiger Temple. [13] The second report contains evidence of tiger body part sales, gifting and international transport. [14] [15] National Geographic alleged that the Buddhist monks there are operating a for-profit breeding, sales, and exploitation business with the tigers at the temple. The following May, Thai authorities began seizing animals and attempting to shut down the facility. Breeding for tigers for commercial use or otherwise is prohibited by the CITES Convention, [16] and tigers (being endangered) are regarded as state property in Thailand.

In late-May 2016, police and wildlife officials began an operation to remove all living tigers at Tiger Temple. During the operation, officials found over 40 tiger cub corpses as well as numerous body parts from other animals preserved in freezers. According to a representative of the Department of National Parks, the tiger cubs had died only a short time before the raid. The temple, however, had not reported the birth of any tigers for months. This was seen as a sign for hidden illegal breeding. Some twelve living hornbills were also confiscated as being possessed without a license. [17] The abbot's secretary was stopped from leaving the site with over 1000 amulets containing pieces of tiger skin, two whole tiger skins, and nine or ten tiger fangs. [18] He and four other persons are investigated for alleged wildlife smuggling. [19] The temple was closed to the public at the beginning of the raid. On 3 June, another thirty carcasses of tiger cubs were found in containers with English-language labels, suggesting that they might have been for sale. [20] Since its founding in 1994, the temple has profited greatly from tourism while billing itself as a spiritual organization dedicated to wildlife conservation. [18]

In 2020 the site was a rundown area with only one lion still on the property, along with many deer and wild boar. The days of 400 visitors a day are over and the tracks are in poor repair. Only 5 staff remain to tend the animals still living there.

Related Research Articles

Tiger Largest species of the cat family

The tiger is the largest extant cat species and a member of the genus Panthera. It is most recognisable for its dark vertical stripes on orange-brown fur with a lighter underside. It is an apex predator, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and wild boar. It is territorial and generally a solitary but social predator, requiring large contiguous areas of habitat, which support its requirements for prey and rearing of its offspring. Tiger cubs stay with their mother for about two years, before they become independent and leave their mother's home range to establish their own.

Clouded leopard species of mammal found from the Himalayan foothills through mainland Southeast Asia into China

The clouded leopard is a medium-sized wild cat occurring from the Himalayan foothills through mainland Southeast Asia into southern China. Since 2008, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Its total population is suspected to be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with a decreasing population trend, and no single population numbering more than 1,000 adults.

Gaur Largest species of the bovid family

The gaur, also called the Indian bison, is native to South and Southeast Asia and has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986. The global population has been estimated at maximum 21,000 mature individuals by 2016. It declined by more than 70% during the last three generations, and is extinct in Sri Lanka and probably also in Bangladesh. In well-protected areas, it is stable and increasing.

Khao Yai National Park nature reserve in Thailand

Khao Yai National Park is a national park in Thailand.

White lion rare colour mutation of the Kruger subspecies of lion

The white lion is a rare color mutation of the lion, specifically the Southern African lion. White lions in the area of Timbavati were thought to have been indigenous to the Timbavati region of South Africa for centuries, although the earliest recorded sighting in this region was in 1938. Regarded as divine by some African cultures, white lions first became known to the English-speaking world in the 1977 through the book The White Lions of Timbavati.

Save Chinas Tigers organization

Save China's Tigers (SCT) is an international charitable foundation based in Hong Kong, the United States, and the United Kingdom which aims to save the big cats of China from extinction. It focuses on the Chinese tigers. It also has branches in Mainland China and South Africa.

Environmental issues in Thailand Thailand: environmental issues overview

Thailand's dramatic economic growth has caused numerous environmental issues. The country faces problems with air, declining wildlife populations, deforestation, soil erosion, water scarcity, and waste issues. According to a 2004 indicator, the cost of air and water pollution for the country scales up to approximately 1.6–2.6% of GDP per year. As such, Thailand's economic growth has come at great cost in damage to its people and environment.

Alan Rabinowitz American zoologist

Alan Robert Rabinowitz was an American zoologist who served as the president, CEO, and chief scientist at Panthera Corporation, a nonprofit conservation organization devoted to protecting the world's 40 wild cat species. Called the "Indiana Jones of Wildlife Protection" by Time, he studied jaguars, clouded leopards, Asiatic leopards, tigers, Sumatran rhinos, bears, leopard cats, raccoons, and civets.

Wildlife trade worldwide industry dealing in the acquisition and sale of wildlife

Wildlife trade refers to the commerce of products that are derived from non-domesticated animals or plants usually extracted from their natural environment or raised under controlled conditions. It can involve the trade of living or dead individuals, tissues such as skins, bones or meat, or other products. Legal wildlife trade is regulated by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which currently has 183 member countries called Parties. Illegal wildlife trade is widespread and constitutes one of the major illegal economic activities, comparable to the traffic of drugs and weapons. Wildlife trade is a serious conservation problem, has a negative effect on the viability of many wildlife populations and is one of the major threats to the survival of vertebrate species. The illegal wildlife trade has been linked to the emergence and spread of new infectious diseases in humans, including emergent viruses.

Tiger conservation wildlife conservation effort to save tigers

The tiger is an iconic species. Tiger conservation attempts to prevent the animal from becoming extinct and preserving its natural habitat. This is one of the main objectives of the international animal conservation community. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has played a crucial role in improving international efforts for tiger conservation.

Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary protected area

The Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary is in Uthai Thani and Tak Provinces, Thailand. The park was established in 1974, and is part of the largest intact seasonal tropical forest complex in Mainland Southeast Asia. It, coupled with the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1991. Together, the two sanctuaries occupy 622,200 hectares. As of 2014 it still contained viable populations of large mammals, including gibbons, bears, elephants and Indochinese tigers, although like all other sites in mainland Southeast Asia, some species have disappeared or have experienced severe declines.

The EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP), formerly known as European Endangered Species Programme, is a population management programme for animals of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). It is one of the worldwide assembly of such regional breeding programs for threatened species in zoos. The North America counterpart is the Species Survival Plan (SSP), while Australian, Japanese and Indian zoos also have similar programs. Combined, there are now many hundred zoos worldwide involved in the regional breeding programs. Each EEP has a coordinator who is assisted by a species committee. The coordinator collects information on the status of all the animals kept in EAZA zoos and aquariums of the species for which he or she is responsible, produces a studbook, carries out demographic and genetic analyses, produces a plan for the future management of the species and provides recommendations to participating institutions. Together with the Species Committee, recommendations are made each year about relocating and breeding animals, and the conditions of such a move.

The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) was officially launched on 1 December 2005, as a regional inter-agency and inter-governmental initiative to counter the illegal cross-border trade in endangered flora and fauna. It helps countries share information on and tackle cross-border wildlife crime and facilitates the exchange of regional best practices in combating those crimes. As the world's largest wildlife law enforcement network, it comprises the law enforcement agencies of the 10 ASEAN countries forming a regional intergovernmental law-enforcement network.

Angonoka tortoise species of reptile

The angonoka tortoise is a critically endangered species of tortoise severely threatened by poaching for the illegal pet trade. It is endemic to Madagascar. It is also known as the angonoka, ploughshare tortoise, Madagascar tortoise, or Madagascar angulated tortoise. There may be less than 400 of these tortoises left in the wild. It is found only in the dry forests of the Baly Bay area of northwestern Madagascar, near the town of Soalala .A captive-breeding facility was established in 1986 by the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust in collaboration with the Water and Forests Department. In 1996, 75 tortoises were stolen, which later appeared for sale in the Netherlands. The project was ultimately successful, achieving 224 captive-bred juveniles out of 17 adults in 2004. Project Angonoka developed conservation plans that involved local communities making firebreaks, along with the creation of a park to protect the tortoise and the forests. Monitoring of the angonoka tortoise in the global pet trade has also continued to be advocated.

Bor Wildlife Sanctuary Wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra, India

Bor Tiger Reserve is a wildlife sanctuary which was declared as a tiger reserve in July 2014. It is located near Hingani in Wardha District in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is a home to a variety of wild animals. The reserve covers an area of 138.12 km2 (53.33 sq mi). which includes the drainage basin of the Bor Dam.

Animal welfare in Thailand The treatment of and laws concerning non-human animals in Thailand

Animal welfare in Thailand relates to the treatment of animals in fields such as agriculture, hunting, medical testing, tourism, and the domestic ownership of animals. It is distinct from animal conservation.

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand organization

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) is a registered foundation (non-profit) NGO in Thailand, founded in 2001 by Edwin Wiek. The foundation has several different projects including animal rescue, rehabilitation and veterinary assistance to wild animals in Thailand. It also is active in promoting the protection of wildlife, their natural habitat and the natural_environment. This is done through educational initiatives for local Thai people as well as tourists. WFFT operate a rescue center and wildlife refuge, including an Elephant refuge. WFFT responds to reports by the public and government officials of wildlife in need of care. Many of these rescued wild animals are kept as pets illegally, or are found injured. WFFT is known for their public stand against the so-called Tiger Temple and its ongoing violations of laws regarding keeping protected wildlife.

Tiger bone wine Alcoholic beverage originally produced in China using the bones of tigers

Tiger bone wine is an alcoholic beverage originally produced in China using the bones of tigers as a necessary ingredient. The production process takes approximately eight years and results in a high alcohol concentration. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the specific use of certain body parts is capable of healing diseases according to the characteristics of the animal used to obtain the product, that is believed to be connected with the disease of the person.

Steven R. Galster is an American environmental and human rights investigator and counter-trafficking program designer. Since 1987, he has planned and participated in investigations and remedial programs to stop wildlife and human trafficking and to mitigate corruption and build governance in Asia, Africa, Russia, South America and the USA.

Pata Zoo private zoo in Bangkok, Thailand

Pata Zoo is a small private zoo on the 6th and 7th floors of Pata Pinklao Department Store, Bang Yi Khan Subdistrict, Bang Phlat District, Bangkok near Borommaratchachonnani and Arun Amarin Intersections with Phra Pinklao Bridge. Pata Zoo has operated since the beginning of 1983, along with the department store. For years it has been the focus of Thai animal rights activists who charge the zoo with inhumane treatment of animals.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Charuvastra, Teeranai (20 January 2016). "Temple Refuses to Release Tigers, Again". Khaosod English. Archived from the original on 28 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  2. "'Tiger temple' cleared of abuse". Bangkok Post. Associated Press. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  3. Olarn, Kocha. "'Mayhem' as authorities try to capture 137 tigers at Thai temple". CNN. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  4. "At 'Tiger Temple,' Thai Officials Seize 33 of the Big Cats". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  5. "Thailand Tiger Temple: Forty dead cubs found in freezer". BBC. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  6. Care for the Wild International Archived 2012-04-26 at the Wayback Machine , Retrieved 2012-07-22
  7. "International Tiger Coalition" . Retrieved 11 March 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
  8. "Tigers at Thai Temple Drugged Up or Loved Up?". ABC News . 17 December 2008. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  9. "Wildlife charity calls for an end to tiger selfies". The Guardian . 29 July 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  10. Piyarach Chongcharoen (4 February 2015). "Wild birds seized from Tiger Temple". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  11. "Tiger Temple raided". Thai PBS English News Service. 4 February 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  12. "CEE4Life". CEE4Life.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. http://cee4life.org/press+release.php?ac=post&id=17&p=1
  15. Guynup, Sharon (21 January 2016). "Exclusive: Tiger Temple Accused of Supplying Black Market". National Geographic. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  16. "TRAFFIC - Wildlife Trade News - CITES: Breeding tigers for trade soundly rejected—WWF/TRAFFIC". www.traffic.org.
  17. "Dead tiger cubs found in Tiger Temple freezer". Bangkok Post. Reuters. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  18. 1 2 Itthipongmaetee, Chayanit (2 June 2016). "CONSERVATION RHETORIC FALLS APART AS 1,000 MAGIC TIGER AMULETS SEIZED FROM MONK (PHOTOS)". Khaosod English. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  19. Sharon Guynup (2 June 2016). "Chaos, Questions Surround Temple as Tigers Seized". National Geographic.
  20. "30 more dead cubs found". Bangkok Post. 3 June 2016.

Coordinates: 14°6′57″N99°13′53″E / 14.11583°N 99.23139°E / 14.11583; 99.23139