It’s been two years since the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand was closed and the tigers relocated to government facilities. It looked to be a new beginning for captive tigers in Thailand with government officials announcing that they would be cracking down on facilities across the country. However, two years on and there are more facilities offering tiger selfie and interaction opportunities, not less.
In terms of the tigers from Tiger Temple however, sadly things did not necessarily become better for them. Yes they no longer had to endure being used as photo ops for hordes of tourists, but they also no longer had access to large, enriched enclosures either. In fact, only a handful of the tigers interacted with tourists, the majority spending their days rotating through enclosures, seeing only staff and volunteers, resulting in this move being even harsher than one might expect.
Instead of an improved life, the tigers were moved into small barren cages, with little to no enrichment, physical stimuli or interaction from familiar friendly keepers or tigers. The sudden upheaval from their daily routine caused high levels of stress leading to a severe drop in health both physical and mental. For many of the tigers they were unable to come back from this and have since succumbed to numerous issues.
Though there were promises from international welfare organisations to help aid the tigers in their new home, help has gradually waned and the tigers languish, forgotten. In addition, the higher-level officials no longer have any real pressure being put on them to follow up on their promises to provide care for these tigers. Staff directly at the facilities however, welcome the improvements being made and are excited for future possibilities.
There are some more positives. WFFT, Wildheart Foundation and For Tigers have all helped to fund new enclosures and though these are not the perfect habitats we all would wish for, they are still a step up from the small cages that so many of the tigers still live in. Enrichment and food as also been funded by For Tigers a number of times and the Department of National Parks has stated that food donations are always welcome; something that a few individuals have participated in.
With six enclosures now completed, For Tigers is continuing to raise funding for further enclosures (head over to the link here), with plans for other areas to be developed. The tigers have clearly benefitted from their new enclosures evident by their relaxed demeanours and improved immune systems. The aim is to provide this for all tigers within the facilities.
Farung is one of the tigers lucky enough to make use of one of the enclosures. Here she is in the area at Tiger Temple prior to being relocated to the current DNP facilities.
Chilling out in the barren DNP environment, prior to the enclosures being completed.
Photo credit: © FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin
Out once again, stretching her legs and cleaning claws in the new DNP enclosure.
The battle to improve the welfare of these tigers is far from over, but the
path is there, we just need to follow.