The Wildlife Trade & Animal Abuse - Tiger Temple - Behind the Cloak of Buddha

  • by: CEE-4-Life Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life
  • target: HM King and HM Queen of Thailand, Priminister of Thailand, CITES, UNEP, Thailand Environmental Minister, Department of National Parks Thailand, Qantas, Flight Centre Worldwide, Hotel, travel and tourism promotion venues, books, magazines

The Wildlife Trade is a killing game for money, for greed. It is a sinister business responsible for the desecration of numerous species.  As the Tiger species spirals towards extinction, the time to act is now more than ever.

In 2007, I worked within the Tiger Temple, Thailand. I became a witness to the systematic genocide of the tigers within temple by way of wildlife trade and many varying abuses.

Here are the facts:
* The Temple began in 1999, by the acquistion of 8 tigers, 4 male 4 female through a Laos tiger trader. 
* The tigers were purchased through the illegal wildlife trade.
* The tigers were never rescued orphanes.
* In 2002, the tigers were officially confiscated off the Temple by Dept of National Parks, Thailand (DNP)and the Temple was ordered to neither trade nor breed.* The DNP allowed the tigers to stay at the temple as no facilities were available to rehome the tigers.
* Between 2002 - 2010 numerous tigers have disappeared.
* Older tigers or feisty tigers are traded or swapped with new cubs
* New cubs are given the name of the traded tigers name to present a front that all tigers are still there.
* The abuse is violent and rampant in all areas - diet, exercise, enrichment, veterinary care etc.
* On a return visit in 2010 there are 76 tigers within the temple
* With the scientific tiger stripe ID the proof is undeniable.
* It is estimated another 75 tigers have come and gone through the gates of this so called Buddhist Temple, lost to the wildlife trade.
* The tigers live in small decrepit cages, which can be likened to WWI - WW2 torture chambers. Inside these cement cells, most of the tigers live there 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  The exception is the dozen or so tigers, the young ones, which are taken to a canyon area for 4 hours, for public display and handling, for photographs, for money.  They are then returned to their cement cells.
* The tigers and other animals endure immense long term suffering with illnesses and injury going untreated, sometimes resulting in death.

The tigers are abused in every possible way from the collection of their own urine to be squirted in their faces, to beatings so violent, and then the ultimate abuse - sold into the wildlife trade doomed to death. 

In Laos the tigers are transferred either to illegal tiger farms or killed instantly for body parts or fur. However, all tigers in these farms will eventually be murdered for money, for greed.

This is the foundation of the Tiger Temple. 

There are approximately 2500 adult breeding pairs of tiger left in the wild on our earth, but that number is falling rapidly.  The captive wildlife trade is directly linked to this as the adult tigers are killed in the wild, the cubs taken to tiger farms to be grown for the illegal and violent traditional medicine industry, and for the vanity for those who think it is a status symbol to own a tiger fur mat, or tiger fur item.

While working inside the Temple to study the Indochinese tiger, I witnessed the vicious cruelty and abuse inflicted on these creatures, and then the wildlife trade. This is a place that was promoted as 'Monks and Tigers living in harmony'.  This is a lie.
During clandestine night trades I watched these majestic tigers be subjected to wildlife trade, and disappear into the night, doomed to death.
I attempted educating the temple staff and management in the correct care and handling, enrichment, veterinary care, diet etc, provide education on the critical status of tigers in the wild and the direct link to the wildlife trade. However I came to find out numerous people (conservation agencies, professionals, animal lovers, and people) have tried this for nearly 10 years, to no avail. 

There has been a huge outcry to close the Tiger Temple down, this is completely understandable. Who wouldnt want a horror place like this closed down. 
However the very high powered people that support the Temple, (a financial bomshell for them due to the tourism industry) would never allow the money to disappear.  This is one of the only high tourism money spinners in this poverty ridden area.

So what do you do when you know that these things are happening, even though the evidence is overwhelming and the authorities know, yet it still continues. 

To these people this is soley about money, not the tigers or other creatures.  

As long as the temple remains supported by these powers, it will remain open. So how do you address this.

There are two ways:
1. As the temple is in an area of low income, poverty etc, and with knowledge that there are some good people inside the temple too, I was inclined to the possibility of another try at education. This worked very well with SOME staff and horribly with the management. I addressed the management personally, right to the top. I just became another number on list of people who had tried and failed.

There is absolutely no one in any conservation agency,  professional standing, animal lovers, volunteers and the general public, who have been inside this place that has made one iota of difference to prevent the temple from wildlife trading and the various abuses carried out on the animals.

Due to the fact that the Temple is supported by some high profile people, it is suspected that they have a large say in the running of the Temple.  This is about money.

So, as the Temple is located in an area of high poverty and unemployment,  a management plan has been designed that includes the removal of the Abbot and ALL of his cohorts who are responsible for the abuses and wildlife trades. This includes proving without a doubt the wildlife trade and abuse has been embedded in the Temple since it began, and the enforcement of CITES and Thai law breaches.  The absolute evidence for this part has been done. 

The next steps are to retain the good and innocent workers, and then with help from professionals and solid police checked individuals, to turn the temple into a place of Thai pride.

Run by Thai management in conjunction from foreign help. The foreign help provides education and training, along with financial aid to assist with the rebuild of tiger enclosures, and all elements needed for the correct care and handling of these creatures. This enables economic stability and employment in the Sai Yok province, so then the authority figures keep their money winning tourism spot, the innocents continue with employment, but most importantly all of the creatures are safe from anymore trade and abuse, and the Temple is finally a sanctuary. 

This was and is not what some pivitol people want, and there is a school of thought only to close the place down.  I would agree if it were possible. But it isnt at this point.

2. The second plan is too spread the word out about this place into the world and let people know that this is a place of wildlife trade, that when tourists walk through the gates of the temple and pay their money, that they are inadvertantly contributing to the illegal wildlife trade and death of these creatures.
I doubt that any decent person would go if they knew this information.

There is only one problem with this idea.  If the money goes from the Temple, then the animals suffer further. No tourism - No money- No food
If this was to happen, an around the clock monitoring of the tigers would be needed.  The easiest way for the Temple to get more money is to sell some more tigers to the illegal wildlife trade.

An example of the mentality we are dealiing with - A female tiger, Chomnapa (2) was deliberately poisoned out of spite. She died a horrendous death.  This was done due to an staff member being upset...

What would happen if the money went, hence an around the clock surveillance.

Personally I hold out some hope that with communication and education, this place could become a miracle in the making. However to get rid of the illegal elements involved in this place is a mighty task.

I will continue to pursue the education and communication channels, because I still have hope that if the abusive and trade elements are removed, and if the temple can be turned into a place of Thai pride, this would no doubt set a precedent, and send a blazing message out to other places that Thailand will no longer tolerate wildlife trade of their beautiful creatures in their beautiful country. If that can happen, that would be miraculous. And I do hold that hope I always have.

At this point, due to the fact that there is continuing trades, continuing abuse, lack of nutritional diet for a captive carnavore, lack of adequate veterinary care, enrichment etc, it seems this idea is a losing battle, at the moment. However, the closure of the Temple seems highly unlikely due to the money aspect.

So what do you do when you know that these tigers are dying in vain, for no reason, except greed.

Do you sit and say nothing? Do you smash down people who are trying to help? Do you sit back and say 'Its not my country so I shouldnt interfere'?

If we did that, then today there would be no humpback whales left. If we did that there would be many more species extinct, both plant and animal, land sea and air.

The need to think outside the box, sensibly is vital. Using the brains that we were born with, and being the united humans that I know we can be.

So until these tigers, lions, bears, leopards - all purchased or bred illegally, are safe then I for one will never stop.

Action is now occurring, see below:
* Communication with CITES, UNEP, Thai Governing bodies is in motion.
* As you read this, new homes for these tigers are being secured, just in case.
* There was a court case the Temple brought against animal activists where I was involved with the tiger stripe ID evidence against the Temple. The Temple dropped the charges. 
* And the Facebook group 'Behind the Cloak of Buddha' and 'CEE4Life' are some the human voices being heard. 

Short of going in at midnight and rescuing all of these creatures, do you have any idea's on what else can be done in the legal framework? Contact me if you do.

There are times when after witnessing their clandestine cold sinsiter wildlife trades at night, I have been so very tempted to give them a taste of their own medicine. But of course that would end up in tragedy.... I am human, and I saw some of my wonderful animal friends leave doomed to death. Grief and sorrow are natural.


When this began in 1999, there were no other people that made the decision to purchase the tigers through the wildlife trade other than the Abbot. 
A couple of years later, even when the Temple linked up with the powerful supporting bodies, the Laos tiger trader that sold the Abbot the original tigers, had enough command in him to send fear into the Abbot by demanding that a beautiful Bengal tiger called Mek, a so-called 'beloved son', be returned to the tiger farm in Laos, and he was.

The temple was getting well known then. The Abbots words were 'Laos needs a breeding male and they want Mek, and I dont want trouble from Laos'. Mek was traded and swapped for a few buffalo. Mek is dead, if anyone on the face of this earth can prove otherwise, step forward now.

No matter who is running the Temple now, there is one person responsible for starting this debacle. Sadly and tragically it is a Monk.

The Buddhist faith is a wonderful and utterly respected and revered faith, true Buddhists are inspiring and hold morals that all human beings should aspire to hold.

But we are not dealing with true Buddhists inside the Temple.  We are dealing with corruption at a most vicious level.

I often wonder how many trainee Monks the Abbot infected.

The money men, are money men, and they will try very hard to stop the temple from closing, or in other words prevent the loss of their money.

So that is why I offered that other solution. The money in the Sai Yok region stays, but with the implementation of all things mentioned above.

To implement that solution would be wonderful, however is it possible.

The last thing I ever wanted to see was tiger abuse and trading inside the place I thought was beautiful. But they do it, that is fact.

My goal has only ever been, to get these tigers safe forever. If standing up and giving them the voice they so long have deserved, and asking people all over the world to also give them that voice, if it takes a million people to make this happen, then that is what is going to happen.

Understand that when you are dealing with people who commit such extraordinary abuses, that these people must be handled in extraordinary ways.
This is one of them.

I wish with all my heart that things were different, but how many opportunities must the temple get? Each day that goes by another tiger is closer to unnatural death, and each tiger is suffering, and each day the tiger species is going extinct because of places like this.

But one way or another this will not be tolerated anymore.

With this petition I will present this to all of the above mentioned bodies, strive to make an inroad into the management changes of this place, and pursue the safety of these magnificent creatures once and for all.

To do this we need to work together.  Humans are capable of such wonderful things, and I know that together we can save these tigers and other creatures, and maybe along the way educate enough people so we protect the tiger species from extinction.

If we stop and do nothing, then it is over.
So please,

Never Give Up
For more information,I have written the book, 'Behind the Cloak of Buddha' available via Amazong at http://www.amazon.com/Behind-Cloak-Buddha-animal-endurance/dp/1442102020/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329622515&sr=1-1

You are also invited to Facebook page 'Behind the Cloak of Buddha' http://www.facebook.com/BehindtheCloakBuddha?ref=ts and Cee4Life (Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life) www.cee4life.org or www.twitter.com/cee4life or (http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/cee4life/128781897141323?ref=ts and www.youtube.com/cee4lifeaustralia to view videos for.


Thankyou for your support
Sybelle

We the undersigned are writing to inform you of our great saddness in regard to the situation at the Tiger Temple, Thailand, Soi Yok Province.

There are many people around the world who have read the reports on the Tiger Temple, and there are people who have witnessed the abuse and wildlife trade.
Additionally, thousands of members of the public, the tourists and visitors to the Tiger Temple, have seen the condition of the animals and are voicing their concern.

The Tiger Temple, Thailand invited the world media in to look and see what the Temple is all about. It was an intoxicating blend promoting the Temple as 'Monks and Tigers living in harmony'. It should come as no suprise that this would bring high attention to the Temple. After various  media interviewed the Abbot and filmed inside the Temple, this brought it further into the worlds attention.

With this comes attention from professionals, animal lovers, conservation agencies and the general public who have great concern and love for all of the tiger sub species. 

The world has come leaps and bounds in the knowledge of how to care for critically endangered species and carnivores in capitivity. We understand as Thailand is a developing country, the standards for captive carnivores and other animals is lowered, however the Tiger Temple does not meet those lowered standards.

The wildlife trade is a world wide issue, but with only 2500 adult breeding pairs of tiger (all sub-species included) left in the wild, and with knowledge that tiger farming exists, it is a great saddness to know that the Tiger Temple continues unaddressed. 

Thailand is a beautiful country and is home to some of the most beautiful creatures on earth. However Thailand has become solidly linked to wildlife trade and the un- natural extinction of tigers and other species. I wish this wasnt true but it is.

This has nothing to do with religion, however due to the fact that the illegal wildlife trade is occurring in a Buddhist Monastery, it must be addressed.  I have utter respect and reverence for the Buddhist faith, and know that true Thai Buddhists would never do these things to any creature.

I ask as a person on this earth, that you act immediately and support the efforts of those that are fighting to save the tigers at the Temple, and bring an end to this immediately.

Thankyou for taking the time to read this.

With much respect

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