What is the tiger temple?
- Located in Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok.
- Officially opened in 1994 near a tiger habitat and received its first tiger cub in 1999, found by villagers.
- Since then, villagers have been sending tiger cubs to the temple, especially when their mothers have been killed by poachers.
- Home to a reported 137 tigers in 2016, majority of which are Bengal tigers.
- Also home to other animals such as jackals, hornbills, and Asian bears, all kept without permits.
- Visitors are charged THB600 (approx. MYR70). There are additional fees for feeding and petting.
- Generates a revenue of THB1 mil (approx. MYR115 mil) every year.
What’s the controversy?
- The Buddhist monks running the temple have long faced accusations of animal abuse, animal trafficking, and illegal breeding.
- Former workers allege that tigers are beaten, poorly fed, and kept in poor conditions.
- In December 2014, 3 tigers vanished from the temple, even though they have been microchipped (a requirement for captive endangered animals). A former vet of the temple later admitted that the microchips have been cut out.
- The monks have always refused entry by authorities into the temple and denied all allegations on their Facebook page.
What’s happening there now?
- A court order has finally been obtained for officials to force their way in.
- A week-long operation saw all the tigers moved to governmental breeding centres as they would not be able to survive in the wild.
- 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer, along with body parts from other animals.
- 3 monks were caught trying to flee with a truckload of tiger skins.
- 22 people have been charged with illegal wildlife possession and animal trafficking.
Is there animal trafficking in Malaysia?
- Anson Wong, also known as the Lizard King, was arrested in 1998 in the US for smuggling endangered species. Many suspected he continue his wildlife trading business while in prison. He was arrested again in 2010 when his bag broke open while in transit in Jakarta, revealing 95 boa constrictors. His 5-year jail sentence was cut short on appeal and he was released in 2012.
- More recently, a March report by wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC found nearly 400 animals up for sale on Facebook, close to 50% of which trade is prohibited.
- Almost half are birds, while otters, wild cats, and even orangutans were sold in multiple private Facebook groups boasting close to 70,000 members in total.
What can we do to stop animal trafficking?
- Stop visiting animal attractions such as tiger petting and elephant riding.
- Never buy exotic animals from dealers or pet shops.
- Do not buy goods such as tiger skin rugs or those claimed to be made of elephant ivory and snake skins. Even buying fake goods may fuel the trade of genuine animal parts.
- Avoid shark fin soup at restaurants – request for friends and family not to order and/or serve this dish at weddings, etc.
- Discourage the purchase of medicinal products made of animal parts. Many studies have shown that any medical claims made from rare animal parts are either false or useless.
- Report any social media post that advertises the sale of exotic animals.