About ten years ago I was visiting family in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. One of my cousins recommended we go to the Tiger Temple, aka Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua. Ok sure. The origin story of the temple is supposedly that two tiger cubs intended for the black market found their way to the temple, and the Buddhist monk’s with their philosophy of compassion took them in. It grew from there and is raising money to become one of the largest tiger sanctuaries as well as raise awareness and funds for wild tiger conservation. Back then there were no hordes, not many tigers, and not really a scheduled program full of extra fees. You went, saw a tiger if it was the right time, and either waited or left if it wasn’t. Didn’t seem so terrible.
However, my sister and I went back there this past December since we were back in Kanchanaburi. I am sorry to say that despite having become excessively Disney Land and Tiger Factory-esque, I fell for the thrall of being so close to a tiger and to feeding a baby tiger (so cute). I was spurred to finally write about this trip, because of this article posted on Facebook, “BREAKING NEWS: Government Seizes All Tigers From Thailand’s Cruel Tiger Temple!” It was published yesterday. It seems overall that it has been a turbulent year for the temple. In February the temple was …”cleared of abuse” after complaints that they were selling their own tigers into the black market and also generally treating the tigers more like zoo creatures than just tigers (this latter part I would say is true). However, the government still seized “35 hornbills, three pheasants, and a hedgehog” as protected animals illegally housed at the temple. Then just a week ago, the authorities came back to seize “six protected black Asian beers,” which the temple held illegally in unhealthy conditions. The monks refused to cooperate. Also, the reason these bears were found was because authorities came in to investigate three missing tigers.