Tiger Temple – Temple of Lies
The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand is a popular tourist destination for travellers from around the world. But, what’s the truth behind the famous ‘tame’ tigers?
Every day, large numbers of tourists visit for their chance to get up close and personal with ‘rescued’ tigers. The Tiger Temple website describes itself as a sanctuary that was started when locals brought some orphaned cubs to the temple for care, and the Abbot took them in and cared for them. The website claims that there are 17 tigers at the temple, seven of which were orphans and ten that have been bred on site, but at the time of this report there were 114. The official Thai tourist board leaflets also states that there are only 17 tigers.
But…what’s the reality?
In 2008, Care for the Wild International released an undercover report called ‘Exploiting the Tiger’. The report used information gathered from a variety of sources between 2005 and 2008 and uncovered disturbing evidence of serious conservation and animal welfare concerns, including:
- Illegal tiger trafficking
- Systematic physical abuse of the tigers
- High risk interactions between tigers and tourists.
In 2013, promoted by a wave of media concerns about the Tiger Temple, we went back to see if things had changed. What we found were three key areas of concern:
- Animal welfare issues – there are fundamental animal welfare issues at the Tiger Temple
- Health and Safety – staff, volunteers and tourists are at risk at this attraction
- False Marketing – there is no single significant way in which the Tiger Temple adds to tiger conservation
If you love tigers, care about animal welfare and want to be a RIGHT-tourist we recommend that you do not visit Tiger Temple.
Animal Welfare Issues
On our visit we saw a whole host of things that go against good animal welfare, despite the talk of caring and sharing:
- Inappropriate housing facilities
- Lack of consideration for the needs of the tigers
- Over exposure to hands-on tourists
By paying to enter the Tiger Temple or by posing for photographs you are inadvertently encouraging serious animal welfare issues
Health and Safety
Feeling lucky? On our visit we noted the following key risk areas:
- There is a lack of training and emergency equipment
- Tourists cannot avoid coming into close contact with the tigers
- All tourists have to sign a safety disclaimer on entry
Did you know that your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you if you visit to the Tiger Temple? For any claim you must show that you took all reasonable precautions to avoid injury, loss or damage and that you weren’t ‘wilfully reckless’.
So what is the Tiger Temple – a sanctuary, a temple, or a conservation charity?
- None of the Tiger Temple tigers have ever been released back into the wild, nor can they be
- There is no evidence to suggest that the Tiger Temple has significantly contributed to tiger conservation in any way
- There are over 100 tigers… not 17 as quoted
- The Tiger Temple is not part of any internationally recognised tiger breeding program
- The Tiger Temple is actually licensed as a zoo in Thailand
Based on low tourist number estimates we calculate that the Tiger Temple has an estimated income of at least $1.6 million (USD) per year. After feeding costs, just how much is spent on tiger conservation?
Click on the photos to see larger images or hover over to read captions.
Video from the Tiger Temple
To download our full report, Temple of Lies, click here.
To read our blog from our Tiger Temple visit, click here.
To download our 2008 report, Exploiting the Tiger, click here.
Our Exploiting the Tiger report is also available in a variety of other languages, please click here to find out more.
Don’t forget our animal friendly RIGHT-tourism travel website which details many attractions just like this and offers practical advice, tips and expert opinion to help you maximise your travels and minimise your impact.