Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Too Can Visit Tigers in a Natural Reserve

Granted, tigers are something that most people fear, perhaps out of pure basic instinct. They are fierce predators which often hunt at night. There are many tales going back centuries of unfortunate travellers being ambushed by tigers and as a result, their reputation has grown over time. But there is a Buddhist temple in Thailand where tigers are welcomed and are treated quite humanely. Having become accustomed to their human hosts, they are quite tame and actually respond quite well to visitors. It may sound highly unlikely, but it is true. You owe yourself an opportunity to see this unique environment known as the Tiger Temple.

New and Unusual

Tiger Temple’s official name is WatPhaLuang Ta Bua and is situated on the grounds of a Theravada Buddhist temple in Western Thailand. The monks had an idea 20 years ago that not only should tigers be protected from other predators, especially its most ferocious one, man, but that they could also be somewhat domesticated and learn to live in peace and harmony with humans. By all accounts, the experiment has been an outstanding success. The local monks hope that if the trend continues, they will ultimately be able to release some of the tigers into the wild. Hopefully, they will not have lost their killer instinct, once they are released, so that they can survive in their natural habitat.

One Big Cat

Even as schoolchildren, we learn that tigers are members of the extended cat family. They are in fact the largest of this species and certainly have the largest teeth, which is one of the reasons they are a feared predator. Interestingly enough, they seem to survive about the same amount of time in the wild as in captivity, which typically is somewhere between 24 and 26 human years. Their natural habitat had covered most of Asia, reaching as far as Turkey to the West and Russia to the east. Because they tended to be found in many areas of the world that are largely populated, they often came into contact and conflict with humans. Most of the time, the humans won. Perhaps it goes without saying that as a result, they have lost a tremendous amount of their natural habitat, with some estimates putting the loss at approximately 93%. It is therefore not surprising that the current estimate of tigers that survive in the wild range between only 3,000 and 4,000 total, worldwide. This is a species which is on the verge of extinction, if something is not done to reverse the trend.

Welcome to Tiger Temple

Given this backdrop, it is good to know that there are places such as Tiger Temple where tigers are allowed to breed and live in relative peace and quiet, without too much human interference. If you happen to visit Thailand, you can take advantage of Tiger Temple Tours to visit these animals in a tranquil and serene setting and even have an opportunity to interact with them without fear. In many ways, it could be the experience of a lifetime.

Image courtesy of: anankkml