By Pragya Jha
Located in Sai Yok District of Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province, the temple is not very far from the border with Burma, some 38km northwest of Kachnaburi. It charges admission fee.
In 2015 the temple was cleared from the allegations of mistreatment of animals as per the investigation conducted by Wildlife officials and a raid by Thai soldiers.
The temple received its first tiger cub in the year 1999.Villagers found that cub and handed over it to the temple. However, the cub died soon after. After that several tiger cubs were given to the temple. The no of tigers residing in the temple are 150 approx. as of January 2016.
The DNA data of the original eight tigers which were rescued is incomplete and therefore it is unavailable to public. The origin of these tigers is not known but it is assumed that they are Indochinese tiger, except Mek. Mek is a pedigree of Bengal Tiger. It is possible that some may be the cross breed or hybrid of Malyalan Tigers.
Issues and Controversy
An organization called Care for the Wild International alleged the temple of being involved in clandestine exchange of tiger with the owner of tiger farm in Laos. It is claimed that it operates tiger breeding facility without a license that is required under the Thai Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act of 1992.
According to the founder of Wildlife Friends of Thailand, the temple’s functions violates CITES (An international treaty to which Thailand is signatory). Under its laws CITES bans the commercial breeding of protected wild animals. All previous attempts by authorities to remove tigers from the temple have failed because of the influence created by the temple and its abbot, Phra Wisutthisarathen.
Based on the report of Care for the Wild International, a coalition of 39 conservative groups which included the Humane Society International, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, World Animal Protection and World Wide Fund For Nature sent to the director general of National Parks of Thailand under the name of “The International Tiger Coalition” urging the director general to take action against the temple for importing and exporting of 12 tigers with Laos. The letter concluded that the tiger temple does not have the facilities and skills neither it has relationships with accredited zoos. It also claims that the temple does not desire the tigers to manage in appropriate fashion and is encouraged purely for profit.
In December 2006, employees of ABC news spent three days in the temple and didn’t found any evidence of mistreating or drugging the animals.
On 2 February 2015 an official investigation was conducted by the Forest Officials. They were initially sent away by the temple authorities and were returned the following day with warrant, soldiers, and policemen. The officials seized the wild birds and impounded the tigers. The head of Wildlife Crime Suspension stated that park did not have the permit for raising birds.
In 2016 two reports were issued regarding the mistreatment and abuse of tigers in Tiger Temple.
Pragya Jha is a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi.Twitter:pragya1527