Thailand's tiger tourism expands despite raid on infamous tiger temple

Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:51am EDT
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By Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's tiger tourism business is booming and the captive tiger population is growing fast, experts say, more than two months after Thai wildlife authorities found scores of dead cubs while rescuing animals from the popular Tiger Temple.

Animal rights activists called on tourists to shun Thai animal attractions, which they say are cruel and should be shut down, after the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, closed in June.

Thai wildlife authorities vowed to inspect other tiger attractions, and confiscated 24 tigers from two venues, but the scrutiny has been short-lived.

"On the ground, nothing has changed," said Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a Bangkok-based wildlife adviser for the World Animal Protection NGO. "The Tiger Temple case has brought attention to the topic but is unfortunately limited to the temple itself."

A July report by World Animal Protection shows that the number of captive tigers in Thailand's tiger entertainment industry jumped 33 percent, from 623 tigers in 2010 to 830 tigers in 2015-2016. Eight new venues also opened during the period.

Thailand offers an array of wildlife tourist attractions, from tiger "selfies" to elephant rides and orangutan boxing.

Some venues practice "speed breeding" in order to produce tiger cubs for tourist photo-ops, said Schmidt-Burbach. 

The practice involves taking newborn cubs away from their mothers so that the females are ready to breed again sooner.   Continued...

A sedated tiger is stretchered as officials continue moving live tigers from the controversial Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom