Tiger Temple, Bangkok

Almost everyone who visits Bangkok ends up going to Tiger Temple and most people aren’t entirely sure how they feel about it. On the one hand you get to pet a tiger and who doesn’t want to pet a tiger?  But on the other hand, they are wild animals. They shouldn’t be kept in captivity and it’s heart breaking to see them with chains around their necks.

We’d heard rumours that the tigers were drugged to make them so placid so we got chatting to an American volunteer to see what she had to say.

The volunteer had been working at Tiger Temple for 6 weeks and insisted that the tigers weren’t drugged. She said that they’ve all been hand reared so they’re used to human contact. Every morning the tigers are tired out by being forced to work hard to get their food like they would in the wild. Also, it’s in their nature to snooze all afternoon while it’s so hot and that’s why they’re so sleepy. I was a little bit weary however when we had to sign a form saying we wouldn’t sue if we were injured or killed by the tigers.

She also said that the monks who run the sanctuary are in the process of raising money for a nature reserve in the hope that they could eventually be released. At the moment, if the tigers were released into the wild they would be instantly killed by poachers. It’s a catch-22 situation because they can’t be released but while they’re being raised by hand here’s no chance they’d survive in the wild anyway.

I decided to put my morals behind me and simply enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity of petting a tiger.

 First we saw the baby tigers that were so cute. I got the chance to feed one of them some treats that looked liked mints from the palm of my hand. I could feel its teeth scratching against my palm and ended up with a sticky hand  covered in tiger slobber. We then went to see the full grown tigers that were absolutely huge but I was glad that they weren’t totally docile. Every now and again one of them would spring to its feet, reminding us all of their strength and power. The guys that took photos for us were also quite weary and kept a firm grasp of my hand to make sure I didn’t get too close. I found out that it was great to be a girl at this point because I got about 20 photos and loads of time with the tigers whereas Sam and the other boys were rushed around quickly.

Pull Tiger Tail

Tiger Temple

Look at the size of those paws

Tiger cub at Tiger Temple

Monks with the tigers at Tiger Temple

Tiger Cub

We also did some celebrity spotting and saw Stacy Slater from Eastenders here. I tried to be really cool and act like I didn’t care and didn’t want to stare at her. She was having a hissy fit because her battery had gone dead on her camera and she couldn’t have any pictures.

 

22 Responses

  1. Beverley | Pack Your Passport

    I really don’t like the fact that they’re in there with chains around their necks but you’re right, if they were released into the wild they just wouldn’t survive.

    I just pitched the idea of going here to the bf and he’s on board – woop! I really want to see the tigers now :-)

    Reply
    • Gene

      Hi Beverley, if you really want to see tigers, go to Chiang Mai instead. The Tiger Kingdom has tigers that you can get up close with, minus the chains. They have cubs as well as adolescent tigers as well. We really enjoyed it, not expensive either. Chiang Mai is also a great base to do numerous other activities and has a great night market.

      Reply
      • Tash

        Thanks for the tip, Gene! I am keen to include Chiang Mai into my next SEA trip, so this is a good addition!

  2. Jen

    Amazing photos, so glad to hear they weren’t drugged though, I avoided going when I went to Bangkok because I heard they were too and I had the same problem as you about them being wild animals in captivity. But who doesn’t want to cuddle a baby tiger!

    Reply
  3. Alice

    very nice phots and experience.look forward to seeing more.

    Reply
  4. Natalie Lyall-Grant

    Hi,

    Nice to hear your thoughts. I went to the tiger temple in Chiang Mai when I visited Thailand. The tigers weren’t in chains there, but their enclosures were pretty small. I asked one of the workers there if the tigers were drugged as they seemed to do nothing but sleep. He said to me “no of course not. It would be more dangerous to have tigers on drugs around people because then they don’t know what they’re doing.” This seemed a reasonable point to me, and I was happy to believe it long enough for me to take some photos with the tigers and enjoy petting them – as you say, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    However, my moral dilemma came when it was time to leave. I went towards what I thought was the front gate but got lost somehow and found myself round the back area of the main enclosures. I found myself face to face with an adult tiger trapped in a small cage. This tiger was not lying down like the rest of them. Far from it in fact. It was pacing its tiny cage at super speed, growling and angry to be entrapped, not docile and nonchalant like the rest of them. This made me wonder again about whether the other tigers were on drugs because their behavior was just so different. I think I made myself believe that tigers lying around in the sun like that was normal because I really really wanted to stroke one, but when I saw what a real tiger acts like, it all came crashing down on me.

    I feel terrible about having gone there now because I wish I hadn’t paid money to an organisation that entraps wild animals. It is true, as you mentioned, that if these animals were in the wild they could fall prey to poachers, but the Thai government should put more money into creating national parks for them where they can live freely and still gain protection.

    Reply
    • TheTravelHack

      Thank you so much for your comment Natalie, this is so sad. I think I did the same and tried to convince myself that it was OK but deep down I think we all know that it isn’t.

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    I had the same moral dilemmas in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

    But even without those problems, I was scared those kitties would eat me like an afternoon of tapas. And even if I tried to tell them I wasn’t meant to be an appetizer, I doubt they would listen.

    I know people that have gone, and people that haven’t. And both their reasons or justifications make sense to them. But what I find most fascinating about it all is that it is situations like these that push our own personal priorities. We are forced to decide what we want out of travel. We willingly put ourselves into moral dilemmas.

    It’s kind of a brilliant thing, eh?

    Reply
    • TheTravelHack

      What a great way of looking at it Sarah. That’s what I love about travelling too, almost every day you have to make a decision that really makes you question everything :)

      Reply
  6. Mary

    It makes me glad to know that they are not being drugged, and I know that even though they were raised by humans it does not do away with their animalistic instincts. But it still breaks my heart seeing them with those chains around their necks! Tigers are my favorite animals, I think they are so beautiful!

    Reply
    • TheTravelHack

      I know, the chains just look awful don’t they – I think it makes them look even more like the wild animals they are.

      Reply
  7. Rahul

    though India is the capital of tigers yet i never been so close to this animal…why Tigers so timid there ?… :)

    Reply
    • TheTravelHack

      Hey Rahul, this is why so many people have mixed opinions about visiting the tigers – because we’re not sure if they’re so timid because they’re drugged up. The keepers say that they’re reared by hand and tired out in the morning through exercise and then the midday heat makes them tired but it’s hard to be sure.

      Reply
  8. Tash

    These photos are so amazing, such beautiful animals. But such a dilemma about this captivity – SEA has so many of these amazing, yet ethically challenging experiences! Perhaps one of the key reasons SEA is so edgy…makes us think, ponder…
    Great post!

    Reply
    • TheTravelHack

      It is really sad to see them with chains like this. I wouldn’t even put a chain or a lead on a domestic cat so it’s not right seeing one on a wild animal.

      Reply
  9. Agness (@Agnesstramp)

    In fact, these tigers are treated really badly. I went to Tiger Temple last month when I was staying in Bangkok. I was excited, took some photos and then published a post on my blog. Then I was contacted with a guy from Care for the Wild International Organisation saying that his organisation funded an investigation into the Tiger Temple between 2005-2008, as there were some concerns raised about the tigers’ living conditions and he asked to spread the word. You can read some more there http://etramping.com/animal-abuse-in-the-tiger-temple-in-bangkok. It would be great if we could warn some travellers before they go there.

    Reply
  10. Hasmita

    Wow, didn’t realize tigers were that huge! It’s always kind of a moral dilemma because you want to interact with the animal but you also want them to be living naturally..
    love your blog :)
    Hasmita,

    Reply
  11. Tyanajones

    Hi..literally don’t like the fact that they’re in there with chains around their necks, but i really want to visit tiger temple once in a lifetime..thanks for sharing, keep posting such kind of things always.

    Reply

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