Morris once suggested that humans, being the omnipotent species,
have a contractual obligation to compensate animals for losses and
abuses: the animals have met their end of the deal already. Slowing
down the extinction of endangered species is one of the tactics to
fulfill the liability.
controversial consumerism and questionable intentions, well-run zoos
(and much less so well-run circuses) try not to be the instruments
of oppression they used to be. Artificially supporting and breeding
rare animals kept in captivity saved many species from perishing.
The population of
Indochinese (Corbett's) tigers dwindled to some 200-500 wild animals
living in what's left of the forests along the Burmese-Thai border.
Deforestation, along with poaching driven by the the brisk Chinese
market for animal body parts, are believed to be responsible for the
Branded The Tiger
Temple, Wat Pa Luangta Bua near Kanchanaburi in western Thailand
promotes itself as a Buddhist animal sanctuary. Although the
temple's holdings are diversified (it keeps deers, boars, water
buffaloes, gibbons, horses and peacocks), its 18 tigers are by far
the most powerful magnet for the thousands of visitors coming to see
the place each month.
The temple and its
tigers received considerable publicity lately, including the 2004
and 2005 Animal Planet's documentaries and the Time Magazine feature
that picked the temple as one of the Best in Asia 2006 (in
for-the-soul section). The word is that the tigers, following the
Buddhist persuasion, abandoned their hunting instincts and freely
roam the temple grounds, communing with the monks and frolicking
with prey animals and the public.
Presently, the tame
tigers are kept in cages. Each afternoon, an army of lay handlers
parade them on leashes to the man-made sand pit nearby. The temple's
abbot walks the last tiger and a crowd of paying visitors follows.
Once in the quarry, the tigers are chained to the eyelets cemented
in the ground and the audience is allowed to have photographs taken
while petting the cats. The show lasts for three hours.
There have been 14 tigers
born at the temple in the last five years. The risk of inbreeding is
high. Along with booming ticket and trinket sales, the temple solicits donations to built a grandiose
open-air moated enclosure for the tigers, complete with a parking
lot, viewing boardwalks, a restaurant and a gift shop.
p.s. (July 2008): A
UK-based charity, The Care for the Wild
International (CWI), published a
report on its
investigation of the Tiger Temple, accusing it of hypocrisy,
misconduct, animal trafficking and abuse. The CWI filed a
complaint with the Thai National Parks, Wildlife and Plant
Conservation Department. Thai authorities promised to
'inspect' the temple.