The Tiger Temple is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions. Located two hours northwest of Bangkok in the Kanchanaburi Province, tourists from all over the world come to the temple to mingle with adult tigers, hold cute, cuddly cubs, and have their photos taken with them.
As legend has it, the temple received their first tiger in February 1999, a near-death cub injected with formaldehyde by a taxidermist who failed to finish the procedure. The cub recovered briefly, then fell ill and died in July of the same year. A few weeks later, the temple received two male cubs. Shortly thereafter, Thai police brought four female cubs. The cubs grew, mated, and the Tiger Temple was born. As of October 2012, there were approximately 100 tigers living at the temple.
Over the years, the temple has evolved from rescue center to full-blown tourist attraction. With as many as 1000 tourists visiting each day, the temple is a lucrative business. Entrance fees range from 500 baht for the evening program to 5000 baht for the morning program. The temple states the 5000-baht program affords an exclusive opportunity to get an inside view into the life of the tigers at the Tiger Temple. Guests have the opportunity to interact one on one with tigers of various ages.
While tourists flock to the temple, there are several reasons to consider bypassing the venue. The temple Abbot, Pra Acharn Bhusit Khanthitharo, originally stated he would reintroduce all of the temple’s tigers back to the wild. The temple has yet to return a single tiger to the wild. Described by the temple as a wildlife sanctuary, most conservations dispute this, instead calling the temple a glorified petting zoo that does more harm than good and has absolutely zero conservation value. In addition, allegations of physical abuse, drugging, malnutrition, and breeding for tourism dollars have plagued the temple for years.
Coming in close contact with tigers can provide the experience of a lifetime, but visitors should remember despite their seemingly docile nature, the tigers at the temple remain wild and dangerous. Any time humans are in the immediate vicinity of adult tigers there are inherent risks, so take this in to consideration before visiting the temple.
The Tiger Temple
Wat Pa Luangta Bua (Yannasampanno Forest Monastery)
Saiyok District, Kanchanaburi Province
E-mail: [email protected]