Although I’ve been working on a number of new blog posts for several weeks, I feel compelled to write this blog specifically in response to an article published this week by the Guardian Newspaper to coincide with International Tiger Day.
I fully champion the cause of international tiger day and other wildlife campaigns that highlight the need to protect endangered species, however, I feel conflicted after reading this article as I personally visited this specific Tiger Temple while visiting Thailand earlier this year, as such, I can only go on what I witnessed first hand.
This article fails to mention the good work that the temple does for the animals, such as rescuing abused animals. In particular, we heard of two stories that have stayed with me. Firstly, that of a full grown adult male tiger that was rescued from a tiny one bedroom apartment in Bangkok, and that of two lions that were rescued from a drugs lord who used the animals for protection.
At the same time, I cannot ignore the compelling arguments put forwards that suggest the animals are drugged and have their teeth and claws removed. I found the tigers to be in good condition and saw a lot of activity among the younger tigers, but it is true, some of the bigger tigers did seem quite ‘sleepy’ on reflection.
In response to the incidents of people getting scratched, there are specific instructions on how to behave around the tigers, and there are picture signs demonstrating this posted everywhere, highlighting what to do and what not to do. I find the point about tigers being drugged and at the same time hurting members of the public to be conflicting – surely they cannot do both at the same time?
While I appreciate that this article is trying to highlight the negative aspects of an establishment like Tiger Temple, and whilst I understand the value behind the campaign, this article fails to mention the rehabilitation program that this temple has created in order to reintroduce tigers back into Thailand in areas that are safe for them, along with the educational programs that they run in conjunction with local schools to educate young people about poaching and why it is bad for the tiger population.
I think that it is unfair to compare this particular establishment to that of a man carrying a Monkey or Slow Loris around with them. I saw this on multiple occasions whilst in Asia and refused any kind of photography of this kind as it was clear to see how distressed the animals were, especially as they were kept on tiny chain leads that appeared to be far too tight for them.
I also feel it is important to mention that whilst I and a group of friends chose to go to tiger temple, the majority of our group chose to go to a local zoo. One member of our group was so distressed by what they saw, they walked away in tears as they could clearly see a heavily sedated tiger perched for tourist photos.
As somebody with a genuine interest in animal welfare and the protection of them, I am somewhat conflicted. Yes, I am guilty of taking ‘tiger selfies’, and whilst I understand the ‘no photos, please’ campaign, I question whether there is an alternative solution such as international organisations and charities working together with these establishments to ensure certain levels of care are met or even the closure of such places ONCE a suitable alternative is found.
I question what will happen to all of these tigers if this campaign is successful and no-one visits anymore as this organisation is funded through donations and visitors alone. What will happen to these tigers if the money dries up? Is this solution really any better for tigers? I question whether this campaign has been thought out, as although it may succeed in highlighting an international animal welfare issue, it does little in the way of providing a valid solution that actually benefits the tigers, or other animals implicated in this campaign.