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Tiger Temple - Kanchanburi, West Thailand

THAILAND | Monday, 26 May 2008 | Views [8927] | Comments [11]

Tiger Temple is a temple in the heart of West Thailand. But this is no ordinary temple. The temple is not only the residence of monks, but also of tigers.

When villagers found an orphaned tiger cub, they went from place to place seeking help. Upon arrival at the monastery, the cub was welcomed out of compassion and saved from certain death. Since then many more tigers have found refuge under the abbots loving care, in what has become a conservation project.

Unfortunately this particular site was not covered on my group tour, so the day after the tour finished I went with two others from the group to visit the Tiger Temple. The reason that it was not covered by the Intrepid tour is that Intrepid (the tour operator) believes that the tigers are drugged. I wanted to decide for myself, as did the other with whom I went. So we booked an organised day trip - not the cheapest way to go, but the most time-efficient.

Well, my impression was that the tigers were very much awake. Some were chained to trees, some were not chained at all, and others were held on a leash by one of the volunteer carers (not much assurance there, as if one of these tigers decides to go for you, a person with a flimsy chain will not be able to hold them back).

As you can see in the photographs, the tigers played with each other (particularly with the cub). 'Play' is an imprecise term, since at one point one of the adult tigers was about to strangle the fiesty little tiger cub with the strength of his/her bite.

The temple is only open to visitors for a few hours at about noon - supposedly, the time of day when the tigers have less energy due to the intense heat. Visitors are not allowed to wear bright colours (i.e. red, orange, yellow) which might excite the tigers, and must not wear loose items which the tigers might regard as a toy.

I was more nervous than expected when I first went to stroke the tigers. Nervous in part because tigers are one of the greatest predators that exist, and also in part because I knew that if anything happened to me, I would have great difficulty convincing my insurance companythat this activity fell within the terms of the policy. Realistically, i had no hope if the tigers were feeling peckish.

I soon put my fears to one side, and before long I was stroking the tigers on their backs and their tummies.

I did at one stage stand too close to one tiger who was dangerous, I was later warned. The tiger was chained to a tree with a 1 metre chain... and I was well within 1 metre of him trying to take a good photo. Whoops! *sigh of relief*

Later, the crowd of about 30-40 visitors were asked to stand in an enclosed area while the 'big boys' were brought out to go for a drink in the canyon. This provided us with an opportunity to walk the tiger (which I did, as you will see in one of the photos).

I'm not sure whether these tigers that were brought out later were drugged. They certainly seemed very sleepy once we reached the canyon. But then I was feeling sleepy too under that blazing sun.

Well, anyway, the tigers had some water from the artificial(?) waterfall and lay down on the rocks. We were given specific instructions as to what we could and what we could not do. Everyone that wanted, was guided into the canyon with two guides with several opportunities to be photographed stroking the tigers.

I was very tempted to pay for a 'special' photo which put the tigers head n your lap so that you could cuddle it. Or alternatively, I saw some people lying on the tiger's tummy pretending to sleep, while the tiger's paw was placed on top of their head. Would have loved to have done that, but in the spirit of sticking to a backpacker's budget, decided against.

Definitely, a memorable day.

Tigers sleeping on the rocks.

Tigers sleeping on the rocks.

Tags: kanchanaburi, tiger, tiger temple, tigers




Very brave you are! Fantastic experience to remember.

  Lala Jun 3, 2008 2:06 AM


Oh my God you are extremely brave they look fearful but I must say I liked the one you are taking for a walk. Take care and keep safe.

  Betty Jun 3, 2008 10:40 PM


Hey Johnathan ive been checking out your blog and it looks like ur having a great time. I love the picture with the tigers above ...it looks quite unbelievable.
Were they under some sort of sedative or drugged at all?? Whats been your fave place so far?
keep up the fantastic blog!!!

  Richard Jun 5, 2008 8:40 AM


I don't think that they were drugged, just very sleepy because of the mid-afternoon sun. and there is the internet is littered with testimony from previous volunteers who say that the tigers are not drugged. but i guess there's no way to really know.<br><br>fave place so far has been, hmmmm...tough choice actually. it's between visiting the young children at the Baan Unrak orphanage in sangkhlaburi, western thailand - the unassailable happiness of these children and the generosity of the western volunteers who run the orphanage is heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. also, visiting the hellfire pass museum in kanchanaburi, west thailand - the audio tour and actually walking through the hellfire pass was a real eye-opener about horrific suffering and death which occurred during WWII.<br><br>i guess it is these saddening things that are most striking and thought-provoking. and unfortunately, every country i go to has a sad story to tell. i am in cambodia at the moment, and the genocide of the khmer rouge is beyond anything that the nazis did in my view - nearly a seventh(!) of the cambodian population were killed (i.e. 2 to 3 million people) within a few years!<br><br>well, i will try to update my journal soon - the internet is not great in these small towns.<br><br>hope all is well at home.<br>jon

  jfernandes Jun 6, 2008 12:34 AM


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

You can read CWI’s report at:

  david Aug 23, 2008 12:01 AM


definately drugged with their teeth and claws yanked out... not a pretty picture! :(

  angel Sep 10, 2008 7:06 AM


in retrospect, i would not be surprised if the Temple were scamming all of the tourists and volunteers, as well as mistreating the tigers. Although Tiger Temple may be "notorious", i had never heard of it before.

A couple of people from a group tour wanted to go the day after our tour finished, and I decided at the last possible moment to go with them. Ordinarily, time permitting, i would research this sort of thing for ethical implications - but on this occasion, i didn't.

  jfernandes Sep 10, 2008 11:28 PM


The Tiger Temple doesn't ask volunteers for any payment. In fact, it covers their living expenses.
Compare that to the typical 'volunteering opportunity' out there, if they wanted to charge they could. Not much of a scam there.

  Lily Oct 2, 2008 3:27 AM


Ohwe went here a few years ago ( oh my god it was like 5 years, doesn't time fly) Well my significant other is half thai and we had her family's driver for the day and it took him ages to find the temple, so not that advertised at that stage. We arrived in the heat of the day, tigers in cage and no one around. Noted was when I went close to the cage and then turned away the tigers would lunge at the bars, definately not drugged and happy to be the other side of the bars. Well then the handlers came out and let the tigers out on chains. Same tigers were very placid when out on hand held chains, I even held a tigers tooth - attached to a live tiger. i have to say this was not the safest thing i've ever done and with hindsight might not repeat it but I did not get any feeling of mistreatment. The entry fee was so cheap that it's hard to believe that they were drugged for profit. Hoping things haven't changed but the old monk seemed to be taking care of those majical beasts. I'm a born cynic but sometimes humanity can surprise!

  Steve Dec 13, 2009 12:50 AM


Reading http://www.cwiftp.co.uk/web_files/TigerTemplereport08_final_v11.pdf
has made me rethink a little. When we went it was relatively unheard of (pre 2004) I do hope the holy dollar has not corrupted another purist pursuit but the cynic is back and I fear that once more human abuse is at play. If in doubt, steer clear or ask a million questions.

  Steve Dec 13, 2009 1:02 AM


The Tigers in Tiger Temple were drugged. If you want to see some real tigers acting normal head to Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai.

I have pictures sitting behind a tiger while its chewing on some bamboo they are trained from babies. There is a guide with you at all times with a small stick and if the tiger turns its head towards you they put the stick on the end of the tigers nose and they look away and get on with there business. They are not chained either.

  Matt R Oct 28, 2011 1:36 AM

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