International trade in tigers and their parts is the main cause of the species’ demise in the wild. The body parts of dead tigers are unfortunately prized in countries such as China, Laos, Vietnam and others, for use in ‘traditional’ medicine. Tiger bones, eyes, whiskers, teeth and genitals are amongs the parts used to ‘treat’ ailments and disease, and the demand for these parts, and the skins of the tigers, fuels the blackmarket trading of tigers..
The Tiger Temple is involved in the disgusting trade of the very creatures it claims to be protecting.
Care for the Wild International “…has obtained evidence that, rather than continuing as a rescue centre, the Temple now
operates as a breeding facility and is involved in the clandestine exchange of tigers with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos.”
The 4 year long Care for the Wild investigation also discovered that at least seven tigers have disappeared from the Temple between 2005 and 2007, probably traded given no death-certificates have been produced, and at least five individuals appeared without explanation (one of whom died soon after arrival). Our own investigations have raised suspicions that further tigers have vanished, or are being deliberately hidden from the public due to their shocking condition.
One of Care for the Wild’s investigators reported that a member of Tiger Temple staff that several tiger cubs at the temple had been traded from an illegal wildlife trader. Another investigator volunteering at the Tiger Temple gave the following account:
“At approximately 6:30pm, we headed to the outside of the temple to eat our dinner. At 7:15pm, a monk came and sat near our table. He carried a radio and did not speak to us. At approximately 7:30pm we left the outside
area and headed back to our accommodation. As we arrived at the hut I turned and saw the monk looking through the gate at us in our accommodation. There was a radio call. I became very suspicious as all monks are supposed to be in meditation between 7 – 8pm each night. I knew something was going on, so did the other two volunteers. I asked them to let me know if they hear any vehicle movement.
“At approximately 7:45pm both volunteers heard a truck engine coming through the temple. The front gate was wide open. I rushed with my camera to get a photograph but the vehicle was too fast. The next morning I woke early and checked on the tigers. I arrived to find Fa Rung was not in her cage. She did not return to the temple.”
The Care for the Wild report provides full details of the illegal trading and trade documentation.
In addition to the Care for the Wild findings, a stripe identification study is also in progress. This is being undertaken by individuals with several wildlife organisations backing, to document the markings and stripe patterns of the tigers at the Tiger Temple, Thailand, both in the past and present. Through detailed stripe recognition processes, it has been proven that the Tiger Temple has had a larger number of tigers pass through it’s gates than it can account for, and has contributed to the illegal trade of tigers..
This work also demonstrates that tigers that the Tiger Temple claim to be one individual, are infact several different tigers. For example, a tiger named Darika disappeared in July ’07. She was replaced by a cub who was given the name Darika. The Tiger Temple would say these 2 tigers are one individual tiger, but as stripe patterns are as unique as fingerprints, it is easy to tell that these 2 incarnations of Darika are different tigers.