The infamous Thailand Tiger Temple is located at Kanchanaburi, our day trips from Bangkok take about 2.5 hours. It is very popular with visitors to Thailand and many people visit either directly or as part of a combination tour. Some visitors make the trip to Thailand specifically to visit the Tiger Temple. It is the oldest surviving Buddhist school and forest temple in western Thailand and a sanctuary for numerous animals, including several tame tigers.
Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, or the Tiger Temple, is a Theravada Buddhist forest temple in western Thailand. It is a sanctuary for numerous animals, including several tame tigers. The tigers walk around freely once a day and can be petted by visitors. The Tiger Temple is located in the Saiyok district of the Kanchanaburi province, not far from the border with Myanmar, along the 323 highway.
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The Tiger Temple was founded in 1994 as a forest monastery and sanctuary for numerous wild animals. In 1995, the temple received the Golden Jubilee Buddha Image, made of 80kg in gold. In 1999 the temple received the first tiger cub; it had been found by villagers and died soon after. Several tiger cubs were later given to the temple, typically when the mothers had been killed by poachers. As of 2007, over 21 cubs had been born at the temple, and the total number of tigers was about 12 adult tigers and 4 cubs. As of late March 2011, the total number of tigers living at the temple has risen to almost 90. The hands on approach of the Monks results in happy tigers and a successful breeding programme. Because of a lack of managed breeding programmes and publicly available DNA data, the pedigree of the tigers is not known. However, it is presumed they are Indochinese Tigers, except Mek, who is a Bengal Tiger. It is possible that some may be the newly discovered Malayan Tigers, while many probably are cross breeds or hybrids.
Considering the hot climate, tigers opt for a primarily nocturnal lifestyle, they move around as well as hunt at night after dark to take advantage of the lower ground and air temperatures, the natural way to beat the heat waves. The best experience with the tigers is the early morning breakfast with the monks when the tigers are still very active and as the day goes on, the temple can get very hot and the tigers get very relaxed.
THE ENVIRONMENT :
The temple sees between 300 and 600 visitors each day. The entry fee goes to feeding the animals, and also to fund building a larger tiger sanctuary which will allow the animals to live in an almost natural environment. The temple is reforesting a large amount of land nearby ('Buddhist Park') to possibly release the tigers into the wild in the future. There are donation boxes around the temple for those who wish to help support the sanctuary.
The Tiger Temple practices a different conservation philosophy than in the west. As a forest monastery, no alcohol is allowed on site. Appropriate clothing must be worn by women, covering their shoulders and knees so as not to offend the celibate monks. No bright coloured [red] clothing, no sleeveless or strapless tops or shorts/mini skirts are allowed either. No shawls or sarongs for the upper or lower body should be worn.
HOW TO SEE :
The tigers spend most of the time in cages, being fed with dog food and washed and handled by monks. Once a day, they are led on leashes to a nearby quarry, where they can roam around freely. Tourists may observe this from some 10m away, and may even pet one of the tigers. So far, there has been one serious attack on a tourist. The temple collects donations in order to build a larger tiger sanctuary which would allow the animals to live in an almost natural environment all day long, with plans to release some of the animals back into the wild.
For a fee, visitors may join in the tigers' morning or evening exercise programme. No more than 20 visitors may do this at a time. The tigers are washed and handled by Thai monks, international volunteers and the local Thai staff. Once a day, they are walked on leashes to a nearby quarry. Originally they would roam around freely, but with the increase in visitors and the number of tigers, they are leashed for safety. The staff closely guide visitors as they greet, sit with, and pat the cats. The staff keep the tigers under control and the abbot will intervene if a tiger becomes agitated. Guests can engage in other activities with the tigers. These include bottle feeding tiger cubs, exercising adolescent tigers, bathing tigers, hand-feeding tigers and posing with sleeping adult tigers.