Wild times in Kanchanaburi as the Tiger Temple becomes a zoo
Published on August 18, 2009
Dubbed the Tiger Temple for the big cats that roam freely in its grounds, a forest monastery in Kanchanaburi has now obtained permission to operate as a zoo.
In addition to its 45 tigers, the temple is home to thousands of boar, deer, cattle and wild fowl.
The abbot of the temple, Phra Khru Winaitorn Phusit Kantitharo, is eager to see his new Dhamma Zoo taking shape.
“The temple will now have an official role to play in conserving wildlife,” said Apitat Srimaee, manager of the Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Yannasampanno (Tiger Temple) Foundation. After the temple agreed to take in a rescued tiger cub several years ago, thousands of animals have been placed in its care.
However, foreign NGOs have in the past criticised the temple’s foundation for keeping the wild tigers.
National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department director general Kasemsan Jinnawaso yesterday explained that the foundation had provided good care for the animals.
“The care is even better than many existing private zoos can provide,” he said, adding that the foundation has adequate space and food for the animals. Veterinary care is also made available.
“Health checks have been carried out on every tiger here. Most are donated, while a few were actually born here,” said Kasemsan.
He pointed out that the zoo, operated by the foundation, would be outside the monastery’s compound.
Apitat said the foundation had given scholarships to eight students to study veterinary science and botany. “This is one part of our preparations,” he said. The students will return to help run the zoo after they graduate. Veterinarian Dr Somchai Wisesmongkonchai is currently in charge of the care of all animals at the monastery.
The temple needs about Bt2million a month to buy feed for the animals. That figure is met mainly through visits from foreign tourists.
“We have been welcoming large numbers of tourists for some time,” said Apitat. “The time has come to open a full-scale zoo.”