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Thursday, May 10, 2012

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, mostly Indo-chinese Tigers.

In 1999, the temple received the first tiger cub, one that had been found by villagers; it died soon after. Later, several tiger cubs were given to the temple, typically when the mothers had been killed by poachers, people whose "pet" tigers were getting too big, or those who had to when the laws about the keeping protected species became more strict.[1] 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 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.
The temple charges a 600 Baht admission fee (March 2011 about US$19) to raise funds to care for the animals. Day trips also available from Bangkok and the journey takes about 2.5 hours. The temple sees between 300 and 600 visitors each day. There are donation boxes around the temple for those who wish to help support the sanctuary. 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 temple staff says it costs US$100 per tiger each day for the their feeding and care. Western staff sell the additional services, although the handlers usually are local Thai women.
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.
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 chained for safety. The staff closely guide visitors as they greet, sit with, and pet the cats. The staff keep the tigers under control and the abbot will intervene if a tiger becomes agitated. 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. Portions of the new sanctuary are already open and inhabited with tigers, but other parts are in construction as they need the right fencing around the moat to keep the tigers from leaving the sanctuary. The temple is reforesting a large amount of land nearby ('Buddhist Park') to possibly release the tigers into the wild in the future.
The temple is located in the Saiyok district of Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, not far from the border with Myanmar, some 38 km (24 mi) north-west of Kanchanaburi along the 323 highway.

The tigers:
Monk walking tiger on a leash
Monk and tigers during walk in the quarry
Tourists observing the tigers
Visitors can take a photo with a grown tiger or a small cub
Huge tiger structure at Tiger Temple entrance 

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