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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tiger Temple


 Tiger Temple, or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, is a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand that was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals, among them several tigers.The temple is located in the Saiyok district of Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, not far from the border with Myanmar (Burma), some 38 km (24 mi) north-west of Kanchanaburi along the 323 highway.  It takes on average about 2.5hrs to get there from downtown Bangkok, traffic depending of course!  The Tiger Temple practices a different conservation philosophy than in the west. Being a forest monastery no alcohol is allowed on site. Additionally "appropriate" clothing must be worn by women covering their shoulders and knees so as not to offend the working monks within the site. No bright coloured [red, pink orange] clothes, no sleeveless or strapless tops or shorts/mini skirts for women. Can't figure out why you can't wear orange when the monks do but there you go.  Additionally, no shawls or wraps for the upper or lower body should be worn.  If you happen to rock up in a bright pink t-shirt you will be forced to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a tacky t-shirt to change in to.  There are currently about 90 tigers there as well as numerous other animals including some water buffalo and deer.  But everyone is there for the tigers!

The temple can often polarise people as there have been reports of the tigers being drugged for the benefit of tourists.  This was investigated by the Thai government and proved to be totally unfounded.  I had a 45 minute chat to one of the Australian volunteers from Perth who works there and have come away believing that the tigers best interests are always at heart and they are definitely not drugged.  They have intensive vet checks every six months and this is the only time they are medicated.  I guess people cannot believe that they can be so docile.  Apparently they are much more active in the mornings and in the hot afternoons they just sleep.  The temple is closed to the majority of tourists in the mornings, with just 20 paying for the privilege of walking, bathing and feeding them.

 I paid an extra 1000 Thai Baht (Just over $30AUD) to spend some time feeding the cubs.  Initially I was hoping we could all do it but as the cubs were now 4 months old they were just too big for the kids.  I was however, pleased that they took the kids safety as seriously as we do!  They were very disappointed but in hindsight I am glad they were not allowed in.  Those little cubs are feisty!  There were about 8 of us and we spent a total of 45 minutes playing with the 6 or so 4 month olds and 2 seven week olds.  They were all sleeping when we went in but eventually woke and decided it was time for a play.  Look at those teeth!  

This was one of the 7 week olds.  So very cute but definitely knew what he wanted.

 It was almost surreal and it felt very strange to have permission to just go up and pat them.  The one on my left is definitely sizing me up.  Not long after he got down on his haunches like a cat stalking a bird and sprung at my arm, grabbing a mouthful.  He was only playing but it yes, it did hurt.  He did not break the skin but a couple of days later I sit here with 2 big bruises on my arm and a great story to tell the grandkids about how granny survived a tiger attack!

This little cutie was more my size! 

 Just look at those claws!  There are all sort of rumours about them being de-clawed etc but this is simply not the case.  This one was playing just like a domestic cat.

Feeding time was something I will never forget.  This lovely lady just latched straight on and as the milk got less and less she just relaxed more and more.  It honestly did remind me of feeding the kids.  I especially loved it when she put her paw up on my hand to stop me taking the bottle away as we got towards the end. 

Getting VERY relaxed now.

 You know how babies get that "I'm drunk on milk" expression?  Well here is the tiger version.  I think the cheeky little girl is even giving me wink.

And.....just about asleep.  This was one of the best things I have ever experienced.  To feel and experience their playfulness and then be reminded by a bite of their strength and instinct.  It really was an honour. 


 The tigers used to roam free around the temple but due to the large influx of tourists now, for everyones safety, they are on leads.  I did not see any of them being mistreated.  In fact, the opposite was true.  It was delightful to see their interaction with the monks and the staff.

Ok, so this bit was a little scary.  There is an area called the Tiger Canyon.  It is down here where all of the grown tigers sleep away the afternoon.  There was an opportunity to get you photo taken with them for 1,000 Thai Baht (again about 33 dollars Aus)  I thought, sure, why not, we will pay the money and then just wander over.  Well it was a little more organised than that.  We had a bit of a briefing. Took off hats, sunglasses etc and were instructed not to talk or if you did have to, just whisper.  The 4 of us were then escorted by the elbow, one staff member each and placed next to the tiger.  The silence was so eerie. It is the only time I think my children have ever stopped talking when asked!  They led us to this MAGNIFICENT animal.  I seriously can not describe how impressive he was.  Nick was placed into position and then they lifted the tigers head onto his lap.  There was no problem with the Moggys not talking, I think we were all speechless!

 Will ya just check out the size of that paw!  For a tigers fan this is about as good as it gets.

 Now usually Scarlett is the daredevil in our house but for some reason, Christopher just fell in love with these tigers.  He was keen to get a photo, and to my astonishment (and with the assistance of the Abbot close at hand) they placed the tigers head in his lap.  He is one lucky little boy!

I found this lovely lady who was much more my size and we had a little cuddle.

So what were my impressions of the "Tiger Temple"?  I would have to say that I went in with some trepidation about the commercialism of it all and the fear that the animals may have been treated, unfortunately, like a lot of other animals here is SE Asia.  The Zoo in Saigon for example is appalling!  I came away feeling much more positive.  Whilst I know it is not ideal, the tigers are treated well and from what I can see with respect.  They have regular medical treatment and appear well fed and healthy.  I would hope that something like this could raise some awareness regarding the preservation of the species.  They tell me that the monies all go towards the care of the animals and the up keep and future improvement of the temple.  I do however hope that they honour their promise that they intend to release the next generation of tigers from here out into the wild and this does not just become a tiger farm for tourist pleasure.  It is hard not to feel hypocritical because you do want the best for them but I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity.


  1. Amazing photos! I don't have the gut to pet these BIG cats. Wild animals & I don't mix! Just look @ those HUUUGGGEEE paws w/ claws. I just saw a docu about Tigers in China, very depressing, google Tiger Bone Wine. These cats have it much better than the ones in China for sure.

    malnourished animals...
    illegal breeding...
    blackmarket tiger trading...
    tigers traded for fur & Chinese medicine industries...

    Read the full official Care for the Wild report:

  3. Thank you "anonymous". All opinions welcome.

  4. amazing !!! love the babies and respect the big ones :)

    have seen loads in the wild and in action this will be very different but to be so close to them is once in a lifetime thingi....

    have put this temple in my to do list .

    nice pics and quotes.



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