THE POWER OF BODHI ACCOMPANIMENT AT THE TIGER TEMPLE (KANCHANABURI, THAILAND)
It is true that upbringing matters a lot whether it is human or animal. May be in case of Trees and Plants it is the seed that determines the fruit, but for human and animals it lot depends on the circumstances were they are brought up. Whether they are brought up in an environment of scarcity, continuous life struggle or a content living where the natural way of upbringing takes its own course in inculcating the values that maintains the natural cycle of life and death. The Tiger Temple or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno a Theravada Buddhist temple in western Thailand is an example of the same for how even an animal as wild as a Tiger can grow into a loving, cuddling creature when is kept in an environment where compassion is the daily practice.
The Temple is known for its Tigers who co-exist with human in a natural habitat yet are not in the influence of the wild trait of over powering any creature that they come across. It was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals. The first tiger was donated to the temple by the local villagers who found an injured Tiger Cub which slowly grew bigger with time with more Tigers joining in and is today has become an internationally acclaimed tourist destination.
The temple has long been accused by animal rights activists of mistreating the tigers for commercial gain and even trafficking some of its animals and was closed for a certain period of time, but was cleared of allegations of animal mistreatment in 2015 after investigation conducted by wildlife officials and a raid by Thai soldiers. Charges were only pressed for unlicensed possession of 38 protected birds found on the temple grounds.
The Tiger Temple is located in the Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi Province of Thailand, not far from the border with Burma.
BREAKING THE MISCONCEPTION – THE TIGERS
Some clarification for the growing online criticism against the keep-saking of the Tigers is required here for throwing light into the allegations from Animal rights activists. The Temple was accused of leaving the Cubs away from their mother with the tourists were the Cubs are regularly molested and over fed. For readers of this post it is important to learn that the Cubs are outside for the tourists to experience this union with the wild only for 3 hours. Rest for most of the time they are kept under supervision of the monks and in isolation from outside influences in their natural habitat with their mothers. When a human child is born and everybody wants to take him/her in their lap wanting to pamper, comfort and show their love would we call it molesting? Molesting is a term that is derogatively used when one is made uncomfortable intentionally, while the Tiger cubs are treated with great respect and the Monks regularly invigilate to have a hold on the situation if any cub is forced to befriend with.
Moreover, it is these small interactions daily that brings in these Tiger Cubs easiness and familiarity with the human world. It is this inclusive environment of the Temple which carves away the kill instincts from this beast and brings in them soberness towards the human kind. In December 2006, ABC News Channel spent three days at the temple premise and could not find any evidence of drugging or mistreating the animals. Both Thai and Western employees, including tourists who were interviewed claimed that the animals were well-treated. The abbot of the monastery stated that the eventual goal was to breed tigers for release into the wild.
THE SUCCESS STORY
The majority of the tigers in the Temple are of Indo-Burmese, Chinese origin, one Bengal tiger Mek, but yet most of them have not been traced to the Genetic lineage/species they actually belong from due to lack of a managed breeding programme and unavailability of DNA data. It is possible that some may be the newly discovered Malayan Tigers, while many probably are cross breeds or hybrids. As of January 2016, the number of tigers living at the temple exceeded 150. Only in 2007, over 21 cubs were born at the temple, and the total number of tigers was 12 adult tigers and 4 cubs. As of late March 2011, the total number of tigers living at the temple had risen to almost 90. The hands on dedicated approach of the Monks resulted in a successful breeding programme
THE MAJESTIC TIGER EXPERIENCE
Considering the hot tropical climate, tigers opt for a primarily nocturnal lifestyle, they move around as well as hunt at night after dark to take advantage of the lower grounds and air temperatures. Temple do not allow tourists to visit at late hours so the best way to experience with the tigers is early morning breakfast with the monks when the tigers are still very active and as the day goes on, the temple can get very hot and the tigers get very relaxed.
VISITING THE TEMPLE
The temple is visited by 300 to 600 visitors each day depending upon the season. The entry fee includes feeding the animals, and also building fund for a larger tiger sanctuary which will allow the animals to live in a more natural environment. The temple has undertaken a large area reforesting it (‘Buddhist Park’) to possibly release the tigers into the wild in the future. The visitors may also join in the tigers’ morning or evening exercise programme. No more than 20 visitors are allowed to do this at a time. The Tigers are cleaned and handled by Thai monks, international volunteers and the local Thai staff.
Being the Home for the Buddhist Monks and Monastery for Spiritual well-being the Tiger Temple practices a different conservation philosophy with no alcohol is allowed on site. Appropriate clothing must be worn by women, covering their shoulders and knees. Bright coloured clothing, sleeveless or strapless tops or shorts/mini skirts are discouraged and not allowed.
WHAT ACTIVITIES YOU EXPECT OTHER THAN WATCHING TIGERS :
Under the strict surveillance of the staff, visitors are allowed to greet, sit with, and pat the wild cats. The staff keep the tigers calm and with a sense that they are in a familiar environment. The abbot usually will help you become friendly with the beautiful animal, but are the only one who intervenes if a tiger becomes agitated. Guests can bottle feed tiger cubs, watch the exercising adolescent tigers, bathing of the tigers, and can hand-feed the tigers including pose with a sleeping adult tigers.