Monk and Tiger share a meal

Here is the most wonderful photograph you'll ever see of a Buddhist monk sharing food with a tiger. Shot by photographer Wojtek Kalka at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Worth noting: animal rights advocates do not think the temple itself is wonderful, as the afore-linked Wikipedia entry explains, because the big cats there are kept in abusive conditions. (via Bill Gross)


  1. The reddit thread I first saw this picture accompanying went into detail about how this particular location in Thailand has essentially become a giant tourist attraction.  Tigers rarely walk around free anymore, without collars, and there’s substantial amounts of inbreeding happening there.

  2. I think this post should serve as an alert to people thinking of going to the temple. Reading the wiki page will reveal (as Xeni said) that this Tiger Temple has been widely condemned by animal conservation groups, firstly because of how badly they treat the tigers, and secondly because it basically serves as a breeding centre for a tiger farm in Laos (you know, places where tigers are killed and turned into wine, have their bones ground up).

    I also seriously doubt the religion conviction of these Buddhist monks. They’re probably hoping that as they’re monks they won’t come back as tigers.Still, it’s a great picture.

    1. Just to shed a little light on this. I have not worked there, but I have at least been to Thailand, talked to monks there, and a good friend of mine volunteered at the tiger temple for a while in 2006.

      He returned in 2008, and there were changes already: it had become more touristy, and hence better funded:

      The temple is where orphaned tigers get taken. It started because tigers were taken there, and until 2000, the facilities were made and funded entirely by monks. They don’t have a license, they don’t comply with the international standards, but neither does *anywhere else in Thailand*, and nowhere else is even willing to take the tigers.

      This is a tiger orphanage, and they do the best they can. Allowing tourists in has changed the tone of the place, but meant they are now funded and able to upgrade the facilities. Unfortunately, it also means that they have to spend a lot of money on pandering to those tourists and making sure they don’t get ripped to bits.

      There are literally *no other options* for the orphaned tigers, other than the stewpot, or unsalubrious zoos. They are supported entirely by volunteers and donations from the tourists, allowed to roam free, and fed.

      I can’t speak of the rumors of breeding, but they sound about as much crap as the rumors of drugging. Reading the PDFs linked on the wiki pages, they appear to be complete spin, to be honest. Like, this passage leaped out at me:

      “Given that the Temple does not have a license to breed tigers, it is difficult to understand how or why there have been any births at the Temple at all. All adult tigers are kept in separate pens, apart from the time each day when they are led, individually chained, to the Canyon for display to the tourists.”

      The canyon, where they roam free together, seems an obvious place for tiger sexxings to me. How could they overlook that one? Oh, because they wanted to make it look like deliberate “breeding”, so they turned a blind eye to the fact that the tigers are allowed to roam free together.

      The “individually chained” (they mention the tiger leashes as “chains” quite a lot in the PDF, because “chained” is a juicily emotive and manipulative word) is just weird. How else are you meant to lead a tiger from one place to another? A piece of string? Not that, if the tiger wanted to, it couldn’t just yank that leash right out of your hands, so the only way to lead a tiger on a leash is to have a *happy, contented, friendly, and willing* tiger on the end of the leash.

      “Concrete” and “steel bars” are two more good emotive terms. What the hell else are you meant to use as a floor? Muffins? Wealthy zoos sometimes use reinforced glass because it *seems* less mean if you can’t see bars, and because then you can’t stick your hand in and get it bitten off. But one way or another, you need to restrain them. Others use high (concrete) walls and put the visitors on top, but nobody complains because they’re on top, so can’t see the concrete.

      Overall, the report is a masterpiece of slathering emotive terms onto scant hearsay evidence to make a case.

      And that’s as it should be: the Tiger Temple should be held to a high standard, because it’s a source of national pride for all Thais. This is why the Thai rights people are all over the Temple’s ass to shape up to international standards; which in turn is why they have
      taken to allowing tourists, in order to be able to fund that.

      But the tigers are loved by their minders, who have paid for the privilege of caring for these magnificent beasts; and as you can see in all the pics, they are in fine health.

      Next, the monks: In Thailand, as I understand it, every man gets to be either  a monk, or a soldier. You get to do a year’s public service, and you get to pick one or the other. Kinda like Greece and Switzerland, except you don’t *have* to go into the military. I took a walking tour through the mountains of Chiang Mai, and my guide was one of those who’d chosen the monastery over the barracks. He told me that in Thai Buddhism, you do not have to agree to all the points in it: he, for example,  didn’t agree with the “refrain from drink” part, so he would just drop his hands at that point of the prayer (along with many of his friends!).

      So, when you see a young monk, as in this picture, they’re probably people who’re doing their year of public service. And they’re the ones who’ve opted to help people, and do good things, instead of look macho and pick up chicks.

    2. Having just visited this temple, I find your comment ignorant. The inbreeding my be a little bad, but what proof is there of any of these animals being used as wine.  Plus your comments about the Monks just makes you look stupid… but don’t let that stop you!

      1. Just because you have visited the temple does not make you well informed. Do you really think that any animal abuse would be made visible to Western tourists?

        Tiger farms, which you’ll notice I did not this was rather that it supplied tiger farms, serve a market for china parts (primarily in China). Many parts of the tiger are considered to give people, well men, strength, and making wine from tiger skeletons and skin is common.

        Why would I make such comments about monks? I have visited many buddhist monasteries in Asia and they can be as corrupt as any other religious establishment. There is a common perception in the West of Buddhism as a very pure religion, untainted by the scandals of religions like Christianity or Islam, however this view is quite naive. Many Buddhist monks may act and talk like monks but actually enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle. Specifically in Thailand, many Thais feel that Buddhism has been very heavily corrupted and sidelined by the country’s breakneck development and pursuit of the tourist dollar. You should also realise that Buddhist respect for animals is still based on a strict hierarchy that could be compared to the classic Christian Tree of Life: all animals fall below humans in the hierarchy and to be reincarnated as a tiger would be a sign that you really fucked up your life. As the poster before you stated, these monks are part timers, essentially doing national service. How many of these national service monks do you think have strong faith in their religion? Or do you think that maybe some of these national monks are monks because the alternative, military service, is very disagreeable considering the huge anti-government movement in Thailand.

        To DewiMorgan, I take your points on board. Animal welfare ngos use far too emotive language and often exaggerate. Regarding this monastery in particular, ultimately the question boils down to that these monks do not know how to take care of tigers in a way that is in line with tiger conservation. You are right they are very short on funds, however, it wouldn’t take long for the monks to find out the proper way to handle and care for the tigers. They might be poor, but that doesn’t mean they have to feed them by hand (tiger cubs should not be fed by hand after they are able to feed themselves, and any zoo that does so is acting against conservation efforts). These hand-fed tigers will never be able to return to the wild. The monks must surely know their manner of care is wrong, yet they continue to hand feed and allow tourists to touch the tigers; why? Because they want more tourists, more money. 

        Many people might see this picture and see harmony between man and beast, afterall Buddhists and nature are in harmony, right? I see an animal being trained to act like a clown, to completely unnaturally entertain tourists.

  3. …It’s not as if the monk was going to say to the tiger, “you can take a look at my meal,but don’t eat it”

  4. I love tigers; it’s a heartwarming photo but the idea of them being slain for Chinese viagra fodder saddens me.

  5. If my country had to have National Service, I like the idea of spending it sharing bowls of rice with my tiger friend.  It sounds much better than the being-ordered-to-do-push-ups and having to whitewash piles of coal that my older British friends told me about. 

Comments are closed.