The tiger temple in Kanchanaburi of Thailand was a major tourist attraction was closed down a few months back after a raid by Thai officials in which 40 bodies of tiger cubs were found stuffed inside the freezer and besides the bones and skin of tigers.
This temple had been in news from last few years due to various controversies and theories of torture and illegal trafficking around it.
This temple was started in the early 1990s as a place for keeping rescued animals, but it was expanded after a tiger breeding program was started here. The tigers bred here are not having any value in the conservational sense as no one knows their subspecies and many are hybrids. Also as tigers are difficult to be sent back to wild after living in captivity the re-wilding program is not having any value.
China has a great demand of Tiger body parts as they are used in their traditional medicines. The tiger bones are sold for as much as £300 per kg, a full tiger’s skin easily fetches more than ten thousand dollars. A tiger penis is sold for as high as USD1300.
There have been stories of missing, non registered animals from a long time. Last year in April on the information given by a veterinary doctor that three animals were missing, the authorities had raided the site. Many animal protection agencies have claimed that the tiger temple is actually giving support to illegal wildlife trading. The monks of the temple have denied all these and called them as rumors.
People have seen and written about the abuse on these tigers. The tigers were kept in closed enclosures. The tigers had to parade everyday and were then chained and kept in an open-air area, which were often very hot for the tigers. This was just to increase the tourists by luring them with selfies and such close encounters with the majestic animal. Many cubs were being fed by the monks just to create photo opportunities. The tigers that were not good to present were put in cramped and dirty concrete enclosures. The Tigers were being kicked and punched and pulled with their tail to get them in display positions.
Adult tigers in the temple suffered from both physical and behavioral problems, like pacing back and forth and harming self. The reasons of this could be many from living in captivity to suffering human abuse.
Also, the tigers were told to have microchips that had been implanted in them so that they could be tracked. But an old veterinarian of the temple told that the microchips had been removed out of the three adult male tigers that vanished from the site in December 2014.
The group working for Ethical Treatment of Animals has often declared the tiger temple as a “hell for animals” and asked tourists time and again not to visit or support this place.
Thailand has been a major center from where wildlife and forest products are illegally trafficked outside. Many exotic birds, large mammals, and reptiles, even the endangered ones can be seen markets for sale.