Sadly the holiday is over but what an amazing week we had. There's just so much to put in one post so I'll spread it out. You hear people use the expression 'once in a lifetime' and this truly was a once in a lifetime holiday. I feel so lucky that we were able to do it.
We flew to Bangkok (via Dubai and Singapore) for our visit to the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Province. I had a few misgivings about the aspects of keeping wild animals before I went but all my questions were freely answered (as were other people's) and there was no mistreatment of these beautiful creatures. They are well cared for and respected by the monks and tiger handlers.
Yep that really is a real tiger cub! :-) Just as we use collars and leads to keep puppies safe, these cubs were on leads (leather and chain ones). This wee sleepy one above is one month old. He'd been abandoned by his mother and would not have survived if he hadn't been hand fed. There were other cubs still with their mothers but we were assured they were not viewed by the public.
This cheeky chap is 4 months old, about the size of a Labrador. That's me bottle feeding him! The 4 month old ones were feisty and we were warned to watch out for them testing out their sharp teeth and claws on our hands.
This a sleepy 2 month old. Look at the size of those paws!!
The monks at worship. We were allowed to watch as long as we were seated on the floor and our feet were pointing away from them. Ladies were not allowed on the platform.
Like puppies and kittens they just wanted to play and loved getting their tummies tickled!
Wee sleepy cub!
This one was very feisty and kept biting my sleeve!
Yep, he's really hand feeding a year old tiger!! But notice the 2 handlers poised for action. We were given very strict instructions on how to approach them and how to hold the meat. If they said drop it, you dropped it!
And just like cats they like to play with cat toys. Instead of string on a wee stick, we had bags and bottles on the end of a bamboo pole. We lined up against a wall and 'played' with some one year olds.
That one is playing with my stick!
We then took some adults for a walk. On leads just like walking a dog. These ones are 4 and 5 years, all hand reared and used to human contact.
That's the Teenager with a fully grown male tiger's head in his lap!! The tiger was not drugged. He was just well fed and snoozing in the sun. He really was just like a big pussy cat! Minutes later he was running and splashing about in the pool.
Time for a swim and play!
The entrance to the Tiger Temple
While some animal rights activists disagree with the set up, I can only comment on what I saw while I was there. The tigers are well cared for and looked healthy. In the wild they live to about 10 or 12. In captivity these ones can reach up to 20. They don't have a breeding programme as such but they do let them breed.
It really was an amazing experience. They are such beautiful animals and it saddens me to know that they are hunted and killed for their skins, bones and teeth. There are about 200,000 of these Indo Chinese tigers left in this part of the world. They need protection and even if we approach conservation in a different manner in the West, the monks' dedication to the protection of the tigers isn't in question.