SHOCKING video footage has emerged of tourists baiting and teasing tigers at a ‘wildlife sanctuary’ in Thailand which charges £12 to take part.
‘Tiger teasing’ draws thousands of tourists to the Tiger Temple in western Thailand but animal rights campaigners have slammed it as “stupid” and “cruel”.
Visitors pay upwards of 600 Baht (£12) to dangle food on the end of a stick, while the animals – weighing up to 280kg – snarl and lunge at them.
The temple describes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, claiming the entry fee “goes to feeding the animals, and also to fund building a larger tiger sanctuary which will allow the animals to live in an almost natural environment”.
But conservationists have warned the tourists are encouraging animal cruelty and risking their own lives.
Sybelle Foxcroft worked undercover at the temple for a number of years, as part of an investigation for organisation Care for the Wild.
When shown the video by The Sun, she said: “This is that absolute height of stupidity.
“All the people have to think is – 150-280kg of teeth and claws coming at you…… where is the logic?”
Although she never witnessed it herself, Sybelle is convinced the animals are drugged before they are brought into contact with the public.
Tourists ‘tease’ tigers in shocking online video
CONSERVATIONISTS have slammed the practise, which takes place at a temple in western Thailand
She added: “They showed every sign and symptom of drugging.
“The particular tigers that were in close contact with the public were given some sort of food, after which they became quite drowsy. That food was prepared only by Thai staff of the temple, and not foreigners.
“I am a wildlife biologist, and have worked with many tigers, and I deliberately went to the tigers I suspected to be drugged and examined them closely. Their eyes were dilated in broad sunlight, they were listless, tongues hanging limply, and you could basically do anything to them and they wouldn’t react for about two-three hours.”
Australian Sybelle, who has written a book about her time at the temple, titled Behind the Cloak of Buddha, also claimed the 115 tigers at the temple suffer severe malnutrition and spend most of the time locked away in concrete cells.
She added: “These tigers have never eaten red meat in their lives. They are fed a diet of near vegetarianism. This diet causes their bones to be bent, bowed legs, arched spines, abnormal bodies, disease etc.
“They also receive no enrichment at all, and have spent years with no sunlight.
“Add to that, a severe lack of exercise, and incorrect veterinary care and you have a whole lot of sickly tigers.
“There are now approximately 115 tigers inside the temple. Hidden underneath in cells.
“The education must get out there.
“The Tiger Temple practises severe abuse and major exploitation for money.
“There is absolutely no conservation value of these tigers.”
Sybelle also uncovered evidence to suggest the temple takes part in the illegal trade of animals.
As a result of her investigation, a coalition of 39 conservation groups including the WWF has campaigned to authorities in Thailand to take action against the Tiger Temple.
After The Sun showed him the shocking video, Phil Davies, the founder of Tiger Awareness, agreed the tigers appeared to have been drugged.
He said: “I’ve been told they’re drugged and beaten to make them dosy and amenable to having people around them
“If they weren’t drugged they wouldn’t be anywhere near people.
“I’ve not heard of tigers attacking people at the temple, but there’s always that chance. Tigers aren’t pets.”
Phil first learned about Tiger Temple “six or seven years” ago when he was told about the work being done there to help the animals.
But the more he researched the centre, the more concerned he became about the treatment of the tigers there.
He now warns tourists visiting Thailand to steer clear of the temple.
He added: “We try to warn people off and we try to make people aware of what goes on at the temple. But people like to have their photo taken with a tiger.”
Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) insisted the temple had a long history of animal abuse.
A spokesperson said: “Tiger Temple is a notorious pit of despair.
“Animals are beaten and chained from the time they are babies; most big cats go mad from captivity. Every year, incidents of tiger maulings are reported at these tourist attractions.
“People can protect themselves and tigers by never frequenting these hellholes and donating to habitat-protection programmes instead.
A spokesperson for the Tiger Temple could not be reached for comment.