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All you need to know about the Tiger Temple of Thailand

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Image Source:Youtube.org

By Pragya Jha

Image Source: wikimedia commons
Image Source: wikimedia commons

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.

Tigers

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

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Strict Conservation Laws Result in Eviction of Hundreds of Indigenous Karen People in Thailand

After the military government took charge in 2014, it vowed to "take back the forest" and increase forest cover to about 40 percent of the total surface area from about a third.

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Salween River
A view of the Salween River is seen from a small Thai-Karen village on the Thai side of the river, Nov. 17, 2014. VOA

Hundreds of indigenous Karen people in Thailand face evictions from a national park that authorities wish to turn into a World Heritage Site, joining millions in a similarly precarious situation as authorities worldwide push tough .

The Kaeng Krachan is Thailand’s biggest national park, sprawled over more than 2,900 square kilometers (1,120 square miles) on the border with neighboring Myanmar.

Renowned for its diverse wildlife, it is also home to about 30 communities of ethnic Karen people, who have traditionally lived and farmed there — and is on a tentative list of world heritage sites.

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Last year the country’s top court ruled that about 400 who had been evicted in 2011 had no legal right over the land. Pixabay

The United Nations’ cultural agency (UNESCO) had referred the submission back to the Thai government in 2016, asking it to address “rights and livelihood concerns” of the Karen communities, and get their support for the nomination.

The Thai government plans to respond later this year, according to campaigners.

“The communities have not been consulted or reassured on their access to the forest,” said Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri of advocacy group Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact.

“The communities are not opposed to the heritage status,” he told Reuters. “They are just asking that they not be evicted, and that their land rights are secure — because if the park gets heritage status without that, there will be a great many more evictions.”

A spokesman for the forest department did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for the U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) in Bangkok said they had recently facilitated a meeting between a rights organization working with the Karen, and Thai officials.

Worldwide, more than 250,000 people were evicted from protected areas in 15 countries from 1990 to 2014, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative.

In India, more than 1.9 million indigenous families face evictions after their forest rights claims were rejected.

‘No legal rights’

Since Kaeng Krachan was declared a national park in 1981, hundreds of Karen — a hill tribe people thought to number about 1 million in Thailand — have been evicted, according to activists.

Last year the country’s top court ruled that about 400 who had been evicted in 2011 had no legal right over the land.

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In India, more than 1.9 million indigenous families face evictions after their forest rights claims were rejected. Pixabay

“The security of indigenous people in Thailand is so tenuous because they have no legal rights, and no recognition of their dependence on forests,” said Worawuth Tamee, an indigenous rights lawyer.

“The laws have made them encroachers,” he said.

A 2010 Cabinet resolution had called for recognizing the Karen people’s way of life and their right to earn a livelihood the traditional way. But this has not been implemented, said
Tamee.

After the military government took charge in 2014, it vowed to “take back the forest” and increase forest cover to about 40 percent of the total surface area from about a third.

Also Read: Jet Airways Almost on The Brink of Shutdown, Facing Mounting Ground Problems

This has resulted in hundreds of reclamations from farmers and forest dwellers, according to research organization Mekong Region Land Governance.

“It is the biggest challenge facing indigenous people,” said Tamee. “Parks are not just for the enjoyment of city people and tourists. They are also the home of poor, indigenous people who have nowhere else to go.” (VOA)