In August 2013, I was set to volunteer at Tiger Temple, Southeast Asia’s most controversial tourist attraction, to find my own truth about wild tiger conservation. However, I left after 18 days of volunteering. In previous articles I have highlighted my thoughts after working there for 18 days.
- Tiger Temple Introduction – The Curious Case of Tiger Temple: a one month volunteering experiment
- Volunteering with Tigers: the Not-so uncover investigator
- Getting to Work at Tiger Temple: Welcome to Tiger Island
- Rite of passage: Getting bitten by my first Tiger
- Money, Tiger, and Drugs: Does Tiger Temple Drug Tigers?
There were several other articles I wrote about what my daily life was like volunteering at Tiger Temple, but I left prematurely. I had intended on doing an article a day, however, I lost enthusiasm for it as the project went on and I just didn’t feel right about it and the place. So I finished off with my final thoughts on Tiger Temple.
Should I visit Tiger Temple?
Should I visit Tiger Temple?
This is a question that is highly debated in TripAdvisor, with thousands of people chiming in with their opinion, their friend’s friend’s cousin’s grandma’s opinion, some proclamation from a person “who really knows for sure that those tigers are drugged” etc. The truth of the matter, from my perspective anyway, I highlighted in the article – the Reality of Volunteering at Tiger Temple. Basically, it is hard to know what really goes on behind the scenes – unless you were a true insider. And I mean true, not like a Westerner who has been there for two years and thinks they know everything, I mean like the head monk. The one who looks like a cod fish.
The first thing tourists who visit Tiger Temple think of, talk about, and discuss ad nausea is “Are the tigers drugged?” Well the fact of the matter is: I don’t know and they don’t know for sure. I don’t think the cats are drugged, but the whole question is irrelevant and a distraction to the real issue. Does visiting Tiger Temple and paying for all of the activities there help conservation of tigers in the wild? No.
The “donation” money that tourists pay first goes to building this big ass temple outside. In real conservation projects, the money goes directly to improve the lives and wellbeing of the animals in captivity and to the animals in the wild. It is NOT for profit. Paying to have a temple built is a for PROFIT enterprise. What do the tiger’s need a bigger building to be chained up to for? Yeah thought so.
Despite what other volunteers or workers delude themselves into thinking, the temple does not make this for profit point clear and the temple’s party line is all over the place with where the money goes. If you go there and ask a volunteers they will spout out some bullshit about a conservation project – but they really have no idea. They just want you to be go away with a smile on your face. Seriously, one day when I was there a girl went up to one of the lead Western staff and voiced her concern about the tigers being chained up etc. His response “We had a PhD. from Oxford come here and say these cats were in the best condition he had ever seen.” Satisfied, the girl left feeling a little less upset by here emotional response to the situation. Surprised, I asked, “Really? Did the guy end up publishing the paper on the tigers? I want to check it out.” “Ha, no. That was just a bunch of bullshit I made up to calm her down.”
At the end of the day, people believe what they want to believe. They search out things of significance and aline what they see to fit their reality. So 1/3 of people will think the place is unholy, 1/3 will be completely indifferent, and 1/3 will love it and say it is just misunderstood and look at the happy monk feeding the tiger noodles. Hooray.
********side note on
shity human nature *****
I know this is a sad reality but it is just that. I remember last year when I was in Laos and I met a woman who asked if I wanted to go on an elephant ride. I took a few minutes, not in a preachy kind of way, but just in a “Yo, this is kind of fucked kind of what they are doing kind of way”, to explain why you shouldn’t ride elephants. After my little spiel, she said “Yea, you are right. Well – I am going to go check it out and ride one anyway cause I am here.” So there you go. Human 0, Losing complete faith in humanity 1
*********back to some tiger truth********
And the last glaring question to leave with is: Why so many tigers? If Tiger Temple is losing money on them, they shouldn’t let them breed like rabbits. But they do so because they make the most money from the cubs which they take from the mother a week or two after birth. Sad. And since we are on the subject of breeding like rabbits, where did the rest of he tigers go? When I was there there was like two 2-week old, three 8-week olds, and three 16-week olds…at that birth rate their should be way more tigers. Wonder where they went? (hint* they make all the cheap crap you buy at Walmart).
The problem with some many tigers in one spot, 122 when I was there, is that it gives the impression to the masses that tigers are everywhere, when in reality there are only 3,200 left in the whole world according to the WWF (WorldWildLifeFund – not wrestling). It is at a point where there will not enough genetic variance where the tigers can mate successfully and produce healthy cubs. Shit – there is only like 250 wild tigers on the border between Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand – one of the places there should be the most wild tigers.
So in conclusion – go, don’t go, you will do what you want at the end of the day, but just realize your money is not supporting tiger conservation, those tigers that produce the money are practically working in a circus – this is a Tiger Business. Locals knows it, tour guides know it, people who sell the tours know it, and people who have worked there who are honest to themselves know it. And those babies who you are bottle feeding – yeah those ones, they get that 6 times a day until they are just spitting it out. Sounds like a dream va-cay huh?