When you are a tiger, you are hard-wired to attack. There are no moral dilemmas involved if you bite the hand that feeds you.

Last Sunday afternoon, Hern Fa, a seven-year-old Bengal Tiger, did precisely this when his leash was yanked erratically by his master, the chief abbot of the infamous Tiger Temple.


Conflicting Reports

It was reported by various press sources that the abbot had sustained injuries on his face and shoulder which required him to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for over a day. However, a statement issued in the temple’s official facebook page and later by the abbot’s doctor heavily downplayed the incident stating that the abbot had fallen because the tiger had grabbed his robe causing him to trip and fall resulting in only minor injuries. Apparently, the tiger did not mean to maul the abbot.

This contradicted press reports that the medical staff had tended to the abbot for four hours in the intensive care unit.

A picture taken directly after the incident shows a blood splattered abbot more evident  of a mauling than an accidental fall.

Thai authorities have reacted to this incident by banning the Tiger Temple from public shows and exhibitions. Perhaps, a move towards their initial intention to seize and eventually house the tigers in a proper sanctuary.


What Can We Learn From This Incident

Given the dubious history of the temple including the degrading use of tigers as photo props, for captive breeding and wildlife trafficking, many have interpreted this incident as karma biting back. A divine payback for the injustices inflicted on these poor tigers.

There is an element of schadenfreude, a gloating pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, in this case, that of the abbot’s.


Arguably, showing compassion for someone who presents himself to be ethically flawed can be extremely difficult. No matter how minor the injuries inflicted, the experience of being mauled by a tiger must be extremely traumatic, particularly one that is considered to be part of the “family.”

Perhaps, the real issue here is that they have tried to detract our attention by masking the incident, rather than allowing it to be seen for what it truly is: A glaring reminder that tigers are natural born killers and humans should not be in close proximity to them.


The abbot may claim to have all the love for his pet tigers but they, for sure, do not have the same feelings. His favourite tiger attacked him at lighting speed and for that split second, his handlers were powerless to help him. He is lucky to be alive.

And this is exactly why visitors are made to sign a waiver when they visit the temple.

Whether or not one believes that the abbot’s mauling is a product of karma, we must think about our own karma. Because history will repeat itself unless we let the lessons that we need to learn change our path.

For as long as tourists continue to believe that tigers can be trained to be  docile and allow themselves to infringe on their personal space, we will witness more captive tiger attacks on humans.

Image source: Flickr