will you patronize the Tiger Temple in Thailand?

last night, as i was browsing through things to do in Thailand in the hopes of finding something cheap for the trip, i came across the controversy surrounding the domesticated Tigers at Thai Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi (more here) . ever since a year ago , zsolt developed this fascination of touching and cuddling any wild/endangered animal available. i, on the other hand, was pretty torn about it. zsolt brought me to this zoo in Canberra where we had a 15-minute encounter with cheetahs. though i am not really a big fan of large animals- no matter how tame they may seem to be, it turned out to be quite an experience. the cheetahs purred. and so, i thought, why not play with the tigers and ride the elephants in Thailand?

i was reading various sites promoting the tiger temple and was getting pretty comfortable with the idea of the tiger’s head on my lap while our picture is being taken when i got into a discussion in lonely planet forum about the tigers being drugged. i don’t know how many people actually find that comforting- to be able to hold a tiger without that fear that it may go berserk and rip you off to pieces, that’s probably an added assurance to tourist to splurge a little bit more for such experience.

however, i actually surprised myself for feeling really sorry and angry for the tigers- even with the absence of fool-proofed evidence that they were indeed drugged (by this time, i have already read about multiple tourists’ accounts on what they have witnessed and have already got quite an impression on how the tigers were treated by the temple staff). it is one thing to be domesticated when you should be out there in the wild, it is another to be actually under the influence of a sedative so tourist can jump into that experience of having that encounter with you. again, there seem to be a general knowledge of this being the case but at this point, i couldn’t find an official report that this is true (so, please save your “you really shouldn’t believe everything you read online.” sermon because every one of us is given the freedom to independently weigh the facts and information readily available and this is the path i choose).

zsolt felt the same- perhaps, worse than i did.

when i get my hand on some milllions, baby,” he told me. ” i am going to start a proper tiger conservation with the main purpose of perfecting the process of successfully reintroducing them to the wilds.”

really???” i reacted, surprised. i know he likes animals as much as he likes travel- perhaps, even more so. but that’s even quite too gigantic, even for him. “tigers? seriously?

yes. seriously.”

i frowned. i remember frowning. i really felt bad for the tigers at that point- and it didn’t help that i see Jughead’s dumb look inside my head (our over a year old dog who would have beat Marley in that hollywood role if we happened to be there and get him to audition). but although i did feel bad, i don’t think i want to spend millions and millions of dollars for a tiger conservation. besides, after the kids foundation, i do not think i would have some spare money left to shelter wild animals. i told zsolt that. “i would have expected you’d say something like, build a foundation for the kids (which for the record by the way, he said that as well).” i told him. “but tigers? you’ve always thought of that? or just because we are talking about this now?

(i swear between the two of us, zsolt seems to have the fickle mind).

“well, yes, a foundation for the kids, too, where i can set an environment where both parties can grow up harmoniously together.”

good luck with that.

i would like to go back to the main point of why i am writing this entry now (before i get swayed again by how silly the conversations i and zsolt sometimes have). i decided to not see the tigers in thailand. i do realize to maintain that environment for tigers to live takes a lot of money. but i also do know that with the kind of money the temple receives on a daily basis, surely, they could have something much better for the tigers now? i also don’t like the idea of forcing the tigers to lay on some stranger’s head for photos- because really, how do force a wild cat to do something like that- no matter how domesticated they are? and why would you if you really care? but with the number of tourist having done that- and i am yet to find an incident lately where the tigers refused to do so- that would get you thinking, wouldn’t it?

i decided to skip the tigers in thailand because even when i think it would be quite cool to have some gigantic wild cat on my lap all docile and harmless, i do not think i want to pay an establishment or a monastery(In this case) when there is so much questions as to where all that money went.

we should just wait for africa and there we can cuddle a lion cub.” zsolt blurted out.

true.” i replied. africa, africa africa, when can i afford that? “i hope you get your millions before the tigers disappear from the face of the earth.” i said, half-joking.

“not much hope there.” he replied. i imagine he was grinning despite the seriousness of the subject.

i guess the tigers would not live to get the benefit of my boyfriend’s millions but i really, really hope that someday, humanity can be a little less greedy.

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