This is a very interesting documentary from the Secrets of Nature series in 2011 about the famous – some say infamous – Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua) in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand.
The film interviews the Abbot (his Pali name is Phra Vissuthisaradhera, and he is better known as Luangta Chan), which it only identifies as Phra Ajahn (respected teacher), about how the temple got started along, what his aims are, and where they go from here.
There are other monks involved in the care of the tigers, including one small novice, and exactly how they manage to live so close to the tigers without being hurt for the most part is hard to know.
(This year there was a case of one of the tigers apparently attacking the Abbot, but it then turned out that the Abbot had slipped, pulling the leash on the tiger, which had startled him, and he inflicted a scratch on the Abbot’s face. Other wounds sustained were from the fall: news story here.)
Besides the Tigers, which are, of course, the stars of the show, the Temple also houses many other animals including peacocks, water buffalo, cows, goats, horses, banteng, porcupines, boars, civet cats, lions, and various species of birds, all of which the temple provides a sanctuary for, and many of which it feeds.
The film reports that the Abbot had a plan to set up a Tiger Island when he could raise the funds, in which the tigers would be free to roam around more like in the wild, and this year that project was completed and there are now around 120 tigers on the island. It should be noted that Thailand is only reported to have around 200 tigers in the whole country, and the authorities have proved negligent in protecting them.
There are questions around what has been happening at the temple, and I am aware of that, but it is hard not to be impressed by the way the monks interact not only with the tigers, but with all the animals, and definitely leaving them to the poachers – or park rangers – seems not be a better solution.