A volunteer pets a tiger inside a cage at the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, otherwise known as Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand. Photo: Reuters   | Photo Credit: ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA

Can you stroke and cuddle or take a selfie with a tiger? One could, even if he/she was not that fearless, at this tiger sanctuary. That used to be the speciality of Thailand’s Tiger Temple, which brought hundreds of tourists everywhere.

But Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua (its official name), a Buddhist temple in the Sai Yok district in Thailand, was closed down following a raid and evacuation of 137 tigers, all sedated and caged, in a week-long operation. Conservationists had long believed that the zoo was a front for illegal trafficking in tiger parts. And the latest evidences too stood against the temple.

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary of wild animals, mainly including Indochinese tigers. The temple promoted itself as a place where people and tigers could coexist in harmony, but many reports point out that the tigers were ill-treated to ensure docility and to cooperate for photographs with the tourists.

While there are a lot of controversies that surround the practices in the temple, including illegal breeding, smuggling of tiger parts and torture to the animals, we will look at the tiger trade in general.

At our mercy

Tigers may be majestic and menacing, but they end up facing threats from humans. Tigers are killed for their skins, bones, teeth and claws, which are used in traditional Asian medicine and in the various folk remedies and various products.

In 2014, there were only 3200 wild tigers in Asia. The Indian story is quite grim. According to a report, India once boasted of 40,000 tigers in the wild and they were reduced to 1800 in hundred years. Tiger hunting had been a royal sport for centuries. Though hunting became illegal, poaching continued. Legal protection was given to tigers and majority of the world’s tiger live in captivity. In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers in India. Due to conservation efforts, this increased to 1,706 in 2011 and 2,226 in 2014.


Bengal tigers have been classified as endangered by the IUCN. The Siberian Tiger is classified as endangered and South China tigers as the most critically endangered.


To conserve tigers, several threats need to be addressed – habitat loss, reduction of prey populations, and direct hunting of tigers. Enforcement of existing laws and sanctions against illegal trade markets are also important.

Quick Quiz

1. How many species of tigers are extant?

2. In which countries are Bengal tigers found?

3. How many tiger reserves are there in India?

Send your answers to with the subject: Tiger

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 5:24:42 PM |

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