Following a series of dramatic events, Thailand’s Department of National Parks (DNP) director- general, Nipon Chotiban, has ordered all tigers to be removed from the Tiger Temple by the end of April. This is great news for wildlife conservationists and animal rights activists who have been fighting for over 15 years to close the facility down after numerous reports of abuse and illegal wildlife trading.

While there has been plenty of Internet outrage, with many questioning the moral ethics of these “religious leaders” – the fact remains that there has been a steady and profitable demand from tourists to pay up to $180 for the coveted tiger selfie. A narcissistic desire to be part of a bizarre and cruel sideshow that has been unwittingly fueled by the popular press and influential celebrities.

Tiger Selfies Fuel Animal Abuse

It is no coincidence that the number of visitors and the tiger population at the temple has grown exponentially following the broadcast of a series documentaries in 2002 hailing the work of the monks at the temple as an alternative and spiritual approach to conservation. Ignoring any possibility that these cats are used as slaves for human profit, the producers portray the monks as compassionate carers who are forced into charging entrance fees because of rising costs to upkeep the tigers. It is easy to understand how so many visitors to the temple are led to believe that they are actually helping the tigers and why foreign volunteers have ended up hampering the government’s rescue efforts.

Celebrities for all their wealth and access to knowledge are just as clueless. Just look at the recent BBC article listing 50 reasons to love the world. Number 28 features an enamored Steven Tyler posing next to a Thai tiger. Even more worrying is that such a respected publication could have let that one slip through the cracks.

Ignorance is shockingly rife it seems even amongst those we think should be extremely well informed. It doesn’t help when people who have the most power to influence continue to cuddle tigers and ride elephants on their exotic holidays. Research shows that 60 percent of young people copy the acts their favorite celebrities as shown on social media.

Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Rihanna, have a combined following of 60 million people. Surely these celebrities could be better briefed and have opted instead to visit reputable wildlife sanctuaries for their wildlife fix. They would probably find that tigers are actually quite ferocious and don’t really like having their photos taken especially when sober.

An End to Animal Exploitation

Not so long ago, people thought nothing of animals in circuses, shows and zoos. It is undeniable that further education is still needed in places like Asia where the exotic meat is traded and elephants are still considered as livestock. These practices are cruel and need to stop in the same way that the press needs to stop glamorizing and promoting people’s horrific obsession of wild animal selfies.

“Thailand’s Tiger Temple is at the heart of the unfortunate wild animal selfie trend that has emerged in the past few years and it’s high time people know the truth,” said Nil Zacharias, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet. “Despite claims that the monks are concerned with the welfare of the animals and focused on conservation and rescue work, we here at One Green Planet have featured in-depth articles in the past year exposing the cruel truth behind this terrible tourist attraction and others like it. We are delighted by this positive step and applaud the work of the conservation and animal rights groups that have fought for years to shut down this place.”

The confiscation of the tigers from the Tiger Temple is indeed great news . It should serve as a milestone for everyone, especially the press, to take responsibility and educate themselves before they glamorize the exploitation of wild animals. Ignorance like this is inexcusable and as cruel to animals as are those who profit from wild animals.

  • Humans don’t own wild animals.
  • Wild animals are not pets or company mascots.
  • Nor are they zoo exhibits, or clever circus performers.
  • They are not money-spinning products. Nor are they exotic food.
  • Wild animals are sentient beings who have the right to be free from pain and hunger.

Image source: Flickr