Addendum: OK, forget what you've read about tiger temples and READ THIS.
- Seen a ping pong show… check.
- Been to Phi Phi Island… check.
- Ridden on the back of an elephant… check.
- Had a picture taken with an enormous, docile tiger… check.
I can understand the curiosity that goes with experiencing the first three on this list, but the whole thing about having your photo taken with a tiger baffles me. Yet every traveler who arrives here with his or her guidebook ends up crouched down next to one of these animals.
I had always assumed that the tigers were sedated. I don’t have an opinion about this either way, but it’s a point of hot debate that crops up in forums or in conversation from time to time. I found this on one forum:
Tiger Temple is trash. The poor tigers are sedated, and it's filled with fat f-ckin tourists taking their pictures with them. They charge you 300 Baht to enter as well on top of the $30 US price of the tour. The only thing worth the visit on any of those tours is the elephant trek, which you should just hire a driver and have him take you there and then come back.
Some strong words, but perhaps a little misguided. I then came across this response in the same thread:
Unlike some uneducated individuals on this board who attack those who don't lock step with them, I actually looked into the animal treatment by contacting several big cat experts around the states before going there.
I have heard the argument about sedation before. I think that it comes from, without exception, diurnal individuals who can't rap their heads around the concept that a nocturnal animal will be sluggish during its sleeping hours.
THEY DEFINITELY ARE NOT SEDATED!!!!! One ran across the canyon and started snuggling with another one when I was there. One of the volunteers told me she had one jump up and lick her and the week before, one decided to stroll through the crowd.
None of the volunteers said that the tigers were poorly treated. If you don't like the fact that they have to live like this, start a campaign to kick ALL the people living in tiger habitat out of their homes since this seems to be the greatest threat to tigers. Without places like this, blow hards spouting righteous indignation, and not doing anything else, will be the cause of tiger extinction.
Also, on TigerTemple.org it states that “[the tigers] are not drugged. Tigers are nocturnal animals, so they sleep during the heat of the day. The tiger’s eyes are better adapted to lower light levels than their prey species, so they can surprise their prey with greater ability in darkness. This means they are more active and hunt at night. Adult tigers are naturally lazier, whereas the cubs are more active and will play if it is not too hot.”
The tigers are hand-reared by the monks who live at the temple. They cannot, apparently, hunt or fend for themselves and so they will never be released into the wild. On the website it states that the tigers were intercepted because their mothers were killed by poachers.
This particular tiger temple is in Kanchanaburi. At some point, Lonely Planet advised its readers not to visit the temple. I have found several travelers’ reports from various temples across Thailand about the tigers not being sedated, but that might be the problem.
The Lonely Planet reference:
At last count the temple had eight tigers and at least one tourist had been seriously mauled … More responsible operators confided to us that they didn't think playing with tigers was such a good idea. We agree… we don't recommend you visit.
Here’s a radical thought: Why don’t people visit the temple, donate money and not have their pictures taken with the tigers? Bet Lonely Planet never thought of that one.
What have other people’s experiences with tiger temples been like?