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Wat Pha Luang, more commonly referred to as the Tiger Temple in western Kanchanaburi province made headlines recently when one of the tigers mauled an abbot.
The Tiger Temple is home to more than one hundred and fifty tigers and has long been a tourist attraction for visitors who enjoy being photographed next to the big cats. However controversy has also hung over the temple as animal rights groups and Thailand wildlife officials believe they are breaking the law by keeping the animals.
On Saturday Abbot Luang Ta Jan, 64 was rushed to intensive care at the Thanakarn Hospital with facial injuries and a broken arm and tooth after one of the cats mauled him. The Abbots doctor Sahathep Sawarngnet has dismissed claims that the tiger pounced on the abbot and insists that the attack was completely unintentional and was only triggered when Luang Ta Jan, who was pulling the tiger around by a lead, fell yanking the tiger by its neck. He says the abbot told him that rather than an attack it was a simple case of being scratched a little by the nail, and insists if the cat really wanted to attack him it would have ripped his face off. He maintains that his arm was broken in the fall and had nothing to go with the tiger. He went on to say that his admission to intensive care had nothing to do with the tiger attack, but was due to previous heart problems.
Thailand’s Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Conservation say that the temple are keeping the tigers without proper paperwork and has vowed to seize the animals, they plan to notify the abbot at the temple that he must stop bringing the tigers out for public shows or demonstrating public feeding in return for money.
The department has assigned the deputy chief of the department Mr. Adisorn Nutdamrong to form a committee with local leaders to take care of the tigers in place of the temple under three conditions, no breeding of the tigers in captivity, no public shows or demonstrations and no tigers to be taken out of their cages. The tiger that attacked the abbot will be recalled and taken care of by the department.
70 – 80 tigers will be found new homes at the Khaoson breeding station and at Khao Prathab Chang in Ratchaburi.
In the meantime a wildlife expert has warned of the dangers of petting tigers and having photographs taken with them. The practice is unsafe he said, the big cats remains in itself a hunting instinct no matter how tame it has become, stress can cause the animals to attack and being forced to pose with tourists can be stressful for any cat.