The Tiger Temple is a popular tourist attraction, but it has attracted controversy ever since the first abandoned tiger cub was taken to the temple. Thai temples often become homes for unwanted or stray animals, notably dogs, but the temple of Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno has become home to a number of tigers since the first abandoned tiger cub was taken in by the abbot of the wat in 1999.
Cruel or Not?
The Tiger Temple has faced numerous allegations that the tigers are sedated and claws and teeth are removed to ensure they are docile for the tourists who visit the temple. I have to admit that I’ve not yet visited the Tiger Temple so I can’t write from first hand experience. I offer some links here which may go some way in helping you to decide whether it’s a good idea to visit there or not. The photos accompanying this article come from two different sites dedicated to the temple.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Tiger Temple’s own website answers a number of frequently asked questions. Not surprisingly, they project a good image indicating that the temple is an important conservation and breeding project. This is further supported by another Tiger Temple website which has been written by a British couple, Karen and Alan Earp, who actually did voluntary work at the tiger sanctuary and are in a better position than most to offer comment. Karen Earp has worked with the RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Britain and refutes suggestions that the tigers are in anyway drugged or mistreated. The website is an excellent read and offers some very interesting information about the work at the sanctuary. There are also some revealing insights into daily life and living conditions for the monks and the tigers.
From a personal viewpoint, I have nothing but admiration for Karen and Alan Earp and all the other volunteers at the tiger sanctuary. However, there are people out there who disagree with what the temple does. There is a thread here on the Lonely Planet Forum which gives opinions from those for and against the Tiger Temple.
How to Get There
The temple is located approximately 40 kilometres north-west of Kanchanaburi and probably the easiest and best way to get there is by booking on a tour. I’m not normally a huge fan of tour groups, but even I have to concede that there are times in Thailand when booking on a tour saves a lot of hassle. For those wishing to make their own way there, you are almost certain to come via Kanchanaburi. I would recommend visiting Kanchanaburi’s tourist information office located on Thanon Saeng Chuto (a few kilometres south of the train station, but close to the bus station).