(Sort of) Wild Thailand

On our River Kwai trip, it was sort of inevitable that we’d be doing some animal things along the way too.  My cousin loves animals a lot, and since everyone else in Thailand does this we signed up for an elephant ride-

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At this point I should mention once we signed up for this tour and Adrian decided to tag along but heard there was an elephant ride, he got really upset.  Apparently the guy had done a six hour elephant trek over rough terrain in Cambodia and swore he never would again, but sure enough came with us.  In actuality, the whole thing was pretty good- I don’t think I’d want to do it for six hours either, but for a half hour or so it’s fun!

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Chilling on our elephant.  Ah, life.

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A picture of where the elephant keepers live.  Which I include because we Westerners spend a lot of time worrying about the treatment of animals around here, and frankly some of the people sounded silly worrying so much about the animals but not stopping a second to think about the conditions the people were living under.

Anyway, after this we went off to meet another famous animal from these parts, at a place called Tiger Temple-

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Tiger Temple is, in short, a place where Buddhist monks started accepting tiger cubs whose parents had been killed by poachers from the jungle in this area.  There are currently 38 tigers living there who would otherwise be unable to defend themselves in the wild, and they raise money for their care through tourism.

And because I hear my animal friends shouting their objections already, I know this is not ideal at all for the animals but this isn’t the West- there’s really not enough money to do something like rehabilitate these animals into the wild, so they’re raised by humans from the time they’re cubs.

Some people also insist that the tigers are drugged in order to be with the humans.  I asked an American who was volunteering there about this point and he said this wasn’t the case- first of all Buddhist monks wouldn’t consider it, secondly drugging the animals would be too expensive, third an animal raised with people is not going to behave the same as a wild one.  Looking around I concluded most of the tigers were just as lazy as my cat, as tigers spend most of the day sleeping.  Either way, it’s probably  still a better life than they would have had killed as cubs.

With that soapbox explanation, you’ve got to admit this is really kind of cool-

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The monks are currently raising money for the tigers to have a better enclosure, aka these guys can’t be reintroduced to the wild so they’re getting a nice zoo to live in.  There are a few enclosures finished already, where I spotted this guy cooling down in the heat-

image363You know, I really think the person who figures out genetics so they can make housecats look like tigers will make a lot of money…

So that’s Tiger Temple- I will say the whole thing was probably the most touristy thing I did in Thailand, as when you go to pet the tigers they hardly give you a moment before grabbing your hand to go pet the next one.  But still, it was really neat to pet them an even, at one point, rub a tiger’s belly and watch his ear twitch in appreciation.

4 responses to “(Sort of) Wild Thailand

  1. Yvette – contrary to what you’ve written in your blog, there is an alternative to keeping the tigers at the controversial and exploitative (to put it mildly) Tiger temple. Wildlife and animal welfare charity Care for the Wild have offered to fund the transfer of all tigers to a registered sanctuary in thailand, where they will be treated with far greater respect in much more natural surroundings. The temple has refused – the tigers are far too lucrative to lose.

    With regards to the notorious Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand:
    Following repeated complaints from tourists and volunteers working at the temple about tigers being shockingly mistreated there, Care for the Wild International (CWI) undertook an intensive two year investigation. The resulting CWI report reveals illegal wildlife trade, animal cruelty, false conservation claims and visitor safety risks at the Temple.

    You can read the report at: http://www.careforthewild.com/projects.asp?detail=true&I_ID=580&mypage=Reports

    You can view the letter sent by the International Tiger Coalition to the Thai authorities about the Tiger Temple here:

    http://www.careforthewild.com/files/itc_letter_oct_08.pdf

    This issue has widespread media coverage:

    CWI’s press release – “Illegal tiger trade, cruelty and human health hazards at famous tourist destination”:
    http://www.careforthewild.com/files/tt_news_release%2020-06-08.pdf

    “Black market tigers linked to Thai Temple, Reports says”
    National Geographic News, 20 June 2008:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/06/080620-tiger-temple.html

  2. You’re a kitty!

    Hope you’re having every bit as much fun as it sounds!

    ~Eric

  3. I agree with you about the tiger housecats – I would totally buy one!

  4. You’re brave with that tiger! Very impressive 🙂

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