In Thailand there has long been a famous temple where tigers were kept, apparently much like pets by the monks. Tourists visited in hordes to pet the tigers and watch monks play with them in apparent harmony.
Nothing is that simple when it comes to large wild animals living in captivity however. At best keeping animals like tigers captive is at best making the best of a bad situation. The tiger temple was raided a few times in recent months and now, the tigers are said to be confiscated by the end of April, becoming “wards of the Kingdom of Thailand”.
I’ve been to Thailand long ago on a Boy Scout trip to the 20th world Jamboree. I even have a tiger story. There was one day when different scout patrols in our troop went touring different areas. My patrol got the dubious honor of visiting a fish sauce factory, where fish are fermented for a year to make a traditional Thai sauce. The smell is everything that suggests. We participated in activities such as sorting out fish only to see them being put back into the same pile as we left, and measuring the pH of different vats of sauce. At lunch we were served a fish sauce soup, which is actually spicy and delicious but with the smell of rotting fish all around us, I opted for eating only the fruit on the side. My brother was also in Thailand and his patrol also went on a tour that day but his experience was much different. He visited a tiger zoo, where he helped bottle feed tigers and took home a plaster cast of a tiger paw print.
I was incredibly jealous of my brother’s tiger zoo experience initially but as I grew older and lost a lot of naivety I see things differently. The tigers at the zoo were quite possibly wild caught animals. There’s no guarantee they were treated well and at best they were restrained from living in the wild for the amusement of tourists.
My point is this, when you visit wild animals in captivity abroad, but even in U.S. and Europe, take time to consider whether the animals welfare and best interests are truly being looked out for. Is the zoo actively involved in conservation work and enrichment programs that are truly doing good? Are they actually doing there best to make the world better for wildlife in and out of captivity or are they like Sea World, using animals as attractions for tourists with little regard for the animals themselves?
You can read the whole tiger temple article here.