The temple in Kanchnaburi was a tourist delight, till animal rights group who had long suspected maltreatment got into the act.
Kanchanaburi is a hallowed name as the infamous bridge on the river Kwai was constructed by the Japanese here. It also has a tiger temple dedicated to Lord Buddha. This temple which came up in 1994, had a mission to integrate wildlife with humans. The temple was initially loaned 2 Bengal tigers, but the temple authorities began a breeding program and their numbers multiplied to 137. The animals were a great tourist attraction and Americans who had never seen anything like this were simply enthralled by tame beasts. Many American tourists also photographed them with tigers. One can see the fascination of American tourists for tigers as none are available in natural habitat in America. The temple earned millions of dollars from tourists and the monks led a lavish life.
Ill-treatment of tigers
Animal rights groups were keeping a watch on the temple activities, as reports had come that the animals were ill-treated. The tigers in the temple were the Bengal tigers, who are not native to Thailand. The tigers were reared in the temple by the monks as an example of how animal life and human environment can co-exist with each other. Unfortunately, a police raid revealed the sordid goings-on in the temple. The raid revealed the carcasses of nearly 70 tigers cubs. In addition, nearly 1000 talismans were found which were made of body parts after processing. Obviously, many tigers were killed in the making of these talismans. This was a fit case for action and the police on prodding from animal rights groups had to act.
Removal of the tigers
The police went into action, and all the tigers were rescued and relocated. The tigers could not be set free in the jungles as firstly, they were not native tigers and secondly, the tigers were unable to hunt prey and subsist in the jungle. The monks protested, but their case was weakened by the dead carcasses and the inability to explain how the talismans were made. The goings-on in the temple has dismayed many Thai's. The tourists, mainly Americans who patronized this temple will miss the tigers. There is a good chance that with the loss of earnings, the temple may also close. The temple authorities can also face charges for illegal trade in wildlife and encroachment on forest land. After the removal of the tigers, the temple has become like a normal Buddhist temple with 15 monks left. Despite the removal of the tigers many other animals like horses and bears remain.