one green planet
one green planet

Chances are if you have a friend who has visited Thailand in the past few years, they’ve come home with stories of the amazing experience they had interacting with real LIVE tigers. They will show you albums full of pictures of them posing with the cats, pretending to bite adult tiger’s tails or kissing precious tiger cubs. Who wouldn’t be jealous of such an awesome experience?! Well, probably someone who knows a little about what goes on in these kinds of tourist attractions.

Tiger Temple Thailand is one of the most widely known attractions where tourists can come and spend the day hanging out with tigers, granted at a rather steep price. Although Tiger Temple claims to be solely concerned with the welfare of their animals and devoted to promoting conservation efforts for the tiger … in reality, they are a money-making sham organization who exploits tigers for profit.

Care for the Wild International carried out a series of undercover investigations into Tiger Temple and found that the animals there were subjected to extreme heat and left in cages barely large enough for them to move for 20-21 hours per day. The Temple runs a captive breeding program where the cubs are taken from their mothers at an early age and physically abusive to teach them to be submissive to humans.

The Temple has been accused of abusing their animals and trafficking their tigers in and out of the facility many times, but it looks like this time they have actually been busted! Thai officials have just raided the facility and has impounded at least 100 tigers and 38 hornbills.

Cherdchai Charipanya, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in the province of Ratchaburi, explains that they are checking to see if the facility had the necessary permits for the animals. Given that Thailand is one of the world’s largest hubs for wildlife trafficking, there is a high likelihood that Tiger Temple is guilty of contributing to this trade.

Facilities like Tiger Temple have been known to trade out their older tigers when they are no longer “cute” or profitable. On the black market, tiger parts can be worth more than the live tiger itself and if no one is tracking the animals in and out of the facility, the wildlife trade can run unchecked.

The abuse that has continued to be wrought on the tigers living at Tiger Temple should be enough to justify the closure of this facility, however, this has not been the case. We sincerely hope that the investigation leads other organizations like Tiger Temple to rethink their business model and abandon the captive big cat trade altogether. While the results are yet to be seen, officials have stated that the goal of this raid is not to seize wildlife, but to hopefully bring about legal action and sanctions for offenders that will deter others from similar activity.

While the tide might not be turning against captive animal attractions just yet, this is certainly a step in the right direction. As consumers, we can help see these attractions dissolve into obscurity by boycotting them at all cost. Getting a chance to take a photo with a tiger should not come at the cost of that animals freedom or well-being.

Image source: Flickr