The CWI report
All the allegations are centred around volunteers who claim to have seen things, heard things, got evidence but lost it or had it confiscated, and several other reasons why there is only witness accounts. Two volunteers were deliberately inserted into the temple with the sole intention of finding evidence because of previous volunteer's complaints. It is not unreasonable to expect evidence or direct proof to be obtained if that was the sole purpose of a six month under cover operation conducted on two separate occasions and yet almost every claim made by these two investigators is unproven with no conclusive evidence provided. There are claims of clandestine operations carried out by subversive monks and not even a photo despite having been allowed cameras and mobile phones inside the temple grounds. They couldn't even obtain saliva or hair samples despite being issued with a tiger to take care of and spending many hours in privacy with the cat. All the allegations were made after leaving the temple and on reflection writing them up. Sybelle Foxcroft freely admits, and presumably has no reason to hide, that she went back to the temple a second time deliberately under cover on behalf of cee4life and more specifically to obtain the evidence to prove her accusations against the temple organisation.
The CWI report was released in 2008 and has had several re-writes but maintains the theme of abuse and that the temple should be closed. Initially I took excerpts from their report and examined what was wrong with the claims but since it has been re-released in 2011 it would not be critical to leave it there so I am writing it up as a full critique. The original press release is here and the 2011 report here.
It is important to note that this report is the final 2011 version but relates to information collected between 2005 and 2007 because the report uses retrospective information between 2001 and 2005 and selectively ignores information between 2007 and 2011. Because of the lack of chronological analysis and an over-emphasis on wider issues with tigers in general the report becomes unreliable. If the same investigation was carried out today at Wat Pa Luangtabua Yanasampanno by the CWI they would find little to support their allegations and as a white paper would find little support for its findings. The CWI also carried out no investigative research, data collection or collation before 2005 and so all their retrospective facts are nothing more than hearsay. There were fragments of historical information collected by two investigators via records kept by the temple administration because the temple have not at any time refused access to their files or to the information contained within and neither have they attempted to destroy any historical evidence. The temple administration were also compliant when asked by Sybelle Foxcroft if she could have a copy of an agreement that was in breach of Thai regulations of protected wild animals.
Although this in parts is disputed by some investigators and NGO's I have over many years attempted to balance the evidence coming from all parties. Sybelle Foxcroft is a genuine person with a passion for wildlife conservation and is similarly as honest but has a tendency to make this a personal project. Edwin Weik is a wholly dishonest person prone to lying and making personal attacks to promote his position as the nemesis of the temple. The CWI, who did initially talk to me, phrase their claims very carefully so as to insinuate but not state as fact, while displaying a blatant disregard for facts presented by any cognisant to the extent of refusing to enter into any dialogue. Wat Pa Luangtabua Yanasampanno have not hidden, distorted, lied about anything, and shown a willingness to demonstrate their achievements and talk about them. In essence, they are wholly truthful and provide reliable testimony. This is not to say that a cruelty was claimed by Weik and the temple deny it so I believe them. My point is that Edwin Weik and the CWI are devious and manipulative while Sybelle Foxcroft has been willing to discuss issues and the temple has at all times been demonstrably, though at times unpalatably, honest.
To exemplify this I will use two facts.
1 - When SF found herself with a seriously injured cat she asked the CWI for help. They refused on the grounds they did not want to be seen to be financially assisting the temple. The welfare of the cat was paramount for Sybelle Foxcroft. It was insignificant to the CWI.
2 - Dr. Somchai contacted Sybelle Foxcroft and asked for her advice on how the fencing should be constructed for the tiger island. She supplied them with a materials list and construction method and that legacy is there now for all to see. The CWI still claim the tiger island will never be built and that the allocated land has more cages built on it.
Further, when I spoke to a temple representative about punching a tiger on the head I was told the Abbott had ordered more training, more care in looking after the animals, and acknowledged publicly that in some areas of handling they still had a lot to learn. Only time will tell if they are true to their word, but over the last four years the complaints about the temple have dwindled often to pettiness and previous misdemeanours have not been repeated, so what is the point of the CWI continuing this vendetta?
The CWI claim it is because the temple have continued to conduct illegal practices and that it is nothing more than a tiger farm that illegally breeds tigers for the illegal supply of tiger parts to China. But on analysis of their facts and reports this is far from the truth.
The CWI report
"Whilst the Tiger Temple claims it received its first tigers legitimately as animals rescued from poachers, CWI has obtained evidence that, rather than continuing as a rescue centre, the Temple now operates as a breeding facility and is involved in the clandestine exchange of tigers with the owner of a tiger farm in Laos. These actions contravene Thai, Laos and international law (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES). CWI has also been in contact with a Thai wildlife trader who claims to have sold the original first few tigers to the temple. Exchange or sale of tigers across international borders is prohibited under international and Thai law. But CWI uncovered that at least seven tigers have disappeared from the Temple between 2005 and 2007, and at least five individuals appeared without explanation (one of whom died soon after arrival). CWI uncovered evidence of regular dealings by the Tiger Temple with a tiger farm in Laos, involving both the import and export of tigers. Most commonly, older animals from the Temple were exchanged for young cubs from Laos. Newly arriving tigers are often given identical names to animals who had been transferred from the Temple to Laos to obscure the fact that tigers are being moved in and out, and to create the illusion of continuity in line with the Temple's claim that it provides its tigers with life-long care."
When I keep accusing the CWI of innuendo I mean use of words such as claim to make you think the temple may be lying. They continue that innuendo by creating the illusion that they have a great deal of evidence of illegal trade. They do not. They have one document which is suggestively in breach of the CITES treaty. Then they use language like 'breeding facility'. Yes the temple is breeding tigers but it is a park. The word facility is to make it sound like a manufacturing plant. Whilst tigers have gone missing and is of grave concern it has yet to be explained and no one knows where those tigers are or went. The report then bolts facts together to form a different picture with a Thai wildlife trader and International trade. It is also worth mentioning that CITES does not enforce law regarding illegal trade. It is a legally binding agreement between countries and any breach can mean penalties for that country. It does not provide legislation for the man on the street. A Thai wildlife trader selling protected animals in Thailand would be breaking Thai law but if he gave animals away to the temple, and there is no record of financial transaction, then neither party have broken any laws. The remainder of the paragraph is all claims made by volunteer investigators and the CWI do not have any proof. I do not wish to be dismissive of witness accounts but there are so many out there that are obviously untrue it makes all of them unreliable.
Claiming that new arrivals are given identical names is grossly misleading. If Dao Ruung had a female cub it may be called Dao Rhiaang or Dao Ruung Sao. It is nothing more than tradition. If Dao Ruung died and a new female came along whether born or donated the monks would consult the scrolls and decide if the newcomer is in fact Dao Ruung reborn. The CWI know this and the temple paper-trails demonstrate it for several cats. There is no cover-up. The CWI claim is in some cases conjecture but mostly is conspiracy. It is counter-productive to not be specific and name names but there is a reason why the CWI are being so vague - they are lying.
"Breeding tigers requires a Government licence under the Thai Wild Animals Reservation and Protection Act 1992. The Temple does not have such a licence but has, by its own records, bred at least 10 cubs from its original animals. A number of other cubs were born, but did not survive. To be part of a conservation breeding programme, the genetic make-up and history of an animal's parents must be known. But the original animals at the Temple are of unknown origin, nor have they been DNA-tested to identify their sub-species. With this background, the Temple cannot participate in any recognised conservation breeding programme. Moreover, there is consensus amongst conservationists that releasing captive-bred tigers is almost never a viable option because of shortage of natural habitat and, in the case of animals that are used to human proximity, such as the tigers at the Temple, release is potentially fatal to tigers, humans and livestock."
The temple does have a breeding licence as required by Thai law. I don't know why the CWI keep sticking to this offensive and is why any dialogue between the two parties is impossible. Originally the temple made statements about wanting to restock the wild with tigers. It was a bit naive of them and they now have a better understanding and appreciation of the problems that would involve. It appears the CWI cannot say the same. The consensus amongst conservationists is that redevelopment of natural habitat is the way to reintroduce any endangered species. There is no opinion on what would happen if you tried to restock with captive bred tigers in large numbers because it has never been trialled. It should also be noted there are NO 'recognised conservation breeding programs' for any species of tiger. The CWI would do well to read some of the citations by the IWMC in their report most of which is a consensus that places such as the tiger temple are crucial to combating the illegal trade in tiger parts. Although the CWI will not like the accusation that "With the CITES COP14 approaching, knives are already being sharpened. Activist groups are preparing for a full-blown assault on any consideration of alternatives to the tiger trade ban." These citations are from experts, not a novice NGO, and sums up what is really happening with the CWI's assault on the Tiger Temple. They are similarly incorrect about DNA testing which has been done although that has not been conclusive either so at least they are correct that we do not know the lineage of these tigers.
Although not mentioned in the paragraphs under the title 'Breeding' the CWI have also accused the temple of trading tigers that will find their way to China for the black market. The CITES foundation have commented that China's tiger industry is an in-house operation driven by legislation because "prohibition is the problem, not the solution" and to quote Eugene Lapointe, founder of the IWMC and an article clerk for the CITES treaty, "This type of innovative approach to conservation, based on legal activities, is not welcome by extremists: legalizing trade in an endangered species? NO, They prefer the alternative of illegal trade. Their motives might seriously be questioned."
Further the Royal Thai Police are proactive in investigating tiger trading, though they are at the mercy of tip-off's, and they have made many serious captures not one of which was in any way attributable to or traceable to the Tiger Temple. Although some tigers from many years ago (in tiger terms) are missing there is no evidence they have been either sold on or illegally traded and neither is there any link between the Tiger Temple and China. Meanwhile the sole argument put up for this supposition is that five tigers are missing out of more than one hundred at the temple and that there is a demand in China. When I tried to argue the missing link between the two I was told it is a clandestine operation and that the couriers fear for their lives if they disclose the temple to the Police. At best that would be described as fanciful because this really is a Buddhist temple and not an underground mafia.
I would not disagree with the CWI over the issue of housing though Sybelle Foxcroft returned to the temple in 2012 for a TV documentary and was taken by surprise at the number of improvements made. I would like to see NGO's continue to spur the temple on and keep improving but the CWI report is way behind the times. See today's accomodation in the menu above 'The temple today'
"The recommended diet for captive tigers should consist of entire carcasses, including meat, bone, offal and skin. This should be supplemented with minerals and other essential nutrients. Meat should normally be provided raw, to avoid breaking down vital vitamins and other nutrients. A minimum of 3 to 4 kg of meat per day is the recommended requirement to maintain healthy body condition. At the Tiger Temple, the tigers' diet consists largely of chicken carcasses (from which the best meat has been removed for human consumption), with some pork or beef off-cuts, largely of fat, and occasional packets of commercial dog or cat food. The usual ration is no more than 3 kg. All food is cooked (which is necessary because of the risk of avian influenza from chicken). However, with all food having been cooked and only pork or beef off-cuts to supplement the basic chicken diet, the tigers are at risk from malnutrition. Essential minerals, such as calcium and other nutrients, e.g. taurine, are also likely to be missing. Malnutrition can result in blindness, muscle wastage, and skeletal deformity. Some of the Temple's tigers indeed suffer from poor eyesight and leg deformities. Cubs are removed from their mothers at between two weeks and two months of age (natural weaning occurs at 4 - 6 months) to be hand-reared on human milk formula, which does not contain appropriate nutrients to insure for proper growth in tigers."
The temple explained that they cooked the offal and carcasses because of the risk of transmission but also because they had a belief that it would make the tigers less aggressive. This is a mythical supposition in domesticated animals and it would be a reasonable consideration to call the temple tiger's pets but the fact is; no one knows. The temple also adds vitamins and minerals to the food after it is cooked. Again the language is suggestive such as the best bits of chicken being removed for the staff. I'm afraid that argument is childish however note the words 'risk from malnutrition' because it hasn't happened, and 'likely to be missing' - Stop it, tell us some facts, you don't know anything is missing. Some of the tigers have had deformities and none of them dietary related. And 'weaning occurs at 3 - 6 months', wean means to supplement a milk diet with solids. Clearly the CWI do not understand this. Taking the cub away will have a more psychological affect on the mother than a physical affect on the cub but the temple consider it necessary to ensure they can domesticate the cub. They do not do this to cubs that will not be used with the public and the milk they are fed is a mixture of baby milk and goats milk which is commonly thought amongst conservationists to be the best formula for a cub especially when the mother is not on a natural diet. The diet given to the cats at the temple is based on scientific research. The CWI's argued version of diet is based on their opinion. Having spoken to several welfare organisations and scientists I received overwhelming evidence the temple is doing most things right but certainly nothing wrong with their feeding programs.
"Each day between 1pm and 4pm, an average of ten tigers are put on public display in the Temple's 'Tiger Canyon' which, at the end of 2007, received 300 - 400 primarily foreign visitors a day. In early 2008 however, a volunteer estimated more than 880 visitors in a single day. Aside from touching and sitting on the tigers, being photographed with a tigers' heads in your lap provides a chief attraction for visiting tourists. Tigers remain in the Canyon for about three hours. There is virtually no shade (except for what is provided to tourists) and temperatures can rise well above 40ºC in the sun. The tigers are led on a short leash from their cages to the Canyon by Temple staff. There, they are chained on fixed 3m - 5m chains, and heavy concrete bowls are against or set close to the tiger's body to oblige the animal to adopt a good pose for the tourists and maintain it. Tigers are dragged into position by their tail and even punched or beaten to adopt particular postures that appeal to the tourists. Temple staff stay close to the animals at all times to maintain control by use of tiger urine squirted from a bottle into the animal's face. In the wild, tigers use urine as a territorial or aggressive signal: sprayed at close quarters it would represent an extremely aggressive gesture from a dominant animal."
This is probably the most disturbing paragraph because of its claims of visitor number during a specific period. When I was there if there were coach parties the numbers were quite large but were also controlled by trickle feeding them into the grounds. I cannot say if 880 visited on a single day in 2008 because I wasn't there but it is a suspect estimate and does not say if the crowd was all there at the same time. The most I ever saw was just over 200 but that was over many hours so there was never more than 80 or so at any given time. That meant there was a crowd of 10 or 12 around each big cat but the cats seemed at ease with it. The cats had not been beaten into compliance for the sessions and on one occasion one of the cats, though I do not recall which one, got restless when the crowd around him kept changing and he was returned to his cage. I have not seen punching, beating, or tail pulling to get the cat to be compliant for the purpose of tourist photo sessions and I believe when incidences of abuse have happened because a cat was getting out of control it has been reported as 'making the cat behave for the tourists'. I have many photos of the cats under trees, in the shade, with no concrete bowls or props, and crowds kept well back to ensure the tiger is not startled as well as crowds of 50 or so visitors but more often it is less than that. Have a look at these few..
"Stereotypic behaviour (aimless movements such as head-weaving, chewing, or pacing, repeated many times without change) is common in animals whose natural behaviour is thwarted by inadequate, uninteresting accommodation, or by training or control. At the Temple, pacing and chewing paws is regularly and frequently seen both in the cages and during display. This is indicative of stress and frustration imposed by poor housing and improper handling."
Temple tiger pacing on youtube; this is not evidence of pacing, it is not possible to determine what this cat is doing, and it is visibly calm when the handler reassures him. There are no videos, photos, or records of cats that have been self harming and the only record of such is on forums where the authors have read it somewhere else. I agree that the housing is still woefully inadequate but on the upside have a look at 'The temple today' in the menu. An explanation of what stereotypical behaviour is has little relevance when this so called report is about the temple. What the report should do is state whether this does or does not occur at the temple with references and evidence. What it actually says is that people have said they have seen such behaviour and that raises the questions, who, and when, and what are the qualifications of these witnesses. This is what I mean by innuendo. When I asked the CWI who and what qualifies their witnesses in the field of tiger welfare I was told they cannot divulge names. But I did not ask for names. What I asked was who they were, were they tourists or vet's or volunteer workers etc and what expertise they have. The CWI have chosen not to reply and as previously commented the CWI's 'motives' are highly questionable.
Things may have moved on since my involvement in 2009 but at that time there were many professional accounts that refuted the CWI claims and all the CWI evidence was from tourists and student volunteers. Those professionals number many and ALL of them will no longer speak out for fear of retribution. Craig Busch, Steve Irwin, Prof. Hargreaves (the real one not Edwin Weik), myself (OK I don't count as a professional), David Ireland and several others all could not find any evidence of maltreatment. Meanwhile the CWI do not name even one expert testimony and the very unreliable Edwin Weik claims he did it all himself despite the temple having no record of him ever visiting and Weik's inability to accurately describe the most basic details.
"The CWI investigation raises concerns about the safety of visitors to the Tiger Temple. There are numerous well-documented and sometimes fatal attacks on humans by 'trained' and apparently mild-mannered captive wild cats. These include attacks during photography sessions. At the Temple, hundreds of visitors, some of them young children, are actively encouraged to make close physical contact with tigers during daily photo sessions. Staff fail to prevent direct contact with the animals even when tigers are behaving aggressively. Furthermore, staff and the Temple as a whole, are unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with potential emergencies. The Tiger Temple explicitly renounces any responsibility for injuries or damage, by asking visitors to sign a disclaimer at the entrance."
The question of how safe is it to pet a tiger is irrelevant. How could it possibly be safe? This paragraph is deliberately misleading in its attempt to make the temple look reckless. All visitors are given a line that is a safe distance from the cats and told not to cross it and then brought one at a time into proximity with two handlers always between the visitor and the cat. The cat's personal handler will remain at the head to reassure it and to ensure the visitor is the last to get hurt. The innuendo is to make you think attacks have happened at the temple when there has not been any. Even when there has been injury to the public it has not been because of any tiger attack during a tourist's photo session. When the tigers behave aggressively they are returned to their cages and the public are not allowed in close proximity until the cat has been removed. A disclaimer is not an unusual practice by any establishment but in Thailand it is not legally binding unless you have signed to agree to it and the temple's safety record results have proven exemplary to the extent that the nearest piece of evidence the CWI obtained was a ladyboy who put her hand through cage bars and got scratched. A previous version of the report claimed that children were in danger more than the adults and it is based on the premise that tigers in the wild attack the weak, small, and vulnerable, but it is a misconception. A Bengal tiger has been filmed pulling a 30' crocodile from a river and killing it to feed her cubs. It is a fact that in any surroundings the tiger will use the least amount of energy to obtain a suitable meal and that also means if it is hand fed it won't bother making a kill. That isn't to say it is not dangerous for children but the CWI report argument is seriously flawed to the extent they no longer make an argument and just make a flippant statement. There is no evidence the children are actually in any danger. It is just an assumption. But they are as likely in no more danger than the accompanying adults.
Some of the documented attacks the CWI refer to have happened in locations supported by the CWI and there are 'accepted' establishments that carry out a carbon copy of the temple's tourist attraction. I was told this is not the case and the temple is behaving stupidly so explain this photo from Steve Irwin's park where three tourists and Terri Irwin are petting the cat simultaneously, there is no handler nearby to control the animal if it has a sudden spat, and they are being photographed. The tiger is breathing heavily so it is too hot and has no drink, is on a heavy short chain, and out in the open on barren ground.
For this tourist attraction Australia Zoo charge $500, approximately £343 while the CWI complain that the temple is in it for the tourist dollar by charging $100 but actually the truth is for the same experience the temple charge $30. You only pay more if you want to spend time with the monks and feed cubs or buy a tee shirt. That isn't to say the temple is a cheaper version, it isn't, the experience is identical. And so should be the concern for safety.
"The tigers are poorly housed and badly maltreated to make them compliant and perform for visitors. Although the Tiger Temple may have begun as a rescue centre for tigers, it has become a breeding centre to produce and keep tigers solely for the tourists and therefore the Temple's benefit. Illegal international trafficking helps to maintain the Temples' captive tiger population. There is no possibility of the Temples' breeding programme contributing to the conservation of the species in the wild."
The reports conclusions is actually a summary and it is superficial. The tigers are poorly housed because of a lack of funds and a lack of big cat knowledge, it is not to make the cat compliant. The Tiger Temple did start by being given unwanted cubs despite again the report using language such as 'may have' and 'breeding centre' but the bit about it only benefits the temple and the visitors is ridiculous. All captive animals are for the benefit of its owners or they wouldn't be there. This statement is both pointless and meaningless rhetoric. Neither does the temple need to traffick tigers to maintain its population because the tiger family numbers at the temple are big enough to be self sustaining. The temple tried bringing in a loan tiger to introduce a more diverse gene and reduce in-breeding and that has seriously backfired on them with this persistent nitpicking of its legality but now the question asked by other NGO's is the lack of future planning of a breeding program at the temple which is the exact opposite of the CWI's conclusion. The question of whether the temple cats could ever be a part of any conservation program is not one the CWI can conclude and again contradicts the CWI's own argument that the lack of DNA testing means they do not know the lineage so how can they conclude anything about the value these tigers represent?
"Conflicting reports began to emerge from people who had visited the Temple, and from others who had worked there as volunteers. Whilst some reports were supportive of the Temple's work (e.g. www.tigertemple.co.uk) many others raised serious concerns about the way the tigers were housed and treated; some also raised questions about some of the animals' origins."
(Excerpt because material is being duplicated)
Who is some people? How come everyone I speak to disagrees with the CWI? This is an admission that information coming out of the temple was conflicting but why phrase it as 'some' are supportive and 'many' are critical? Why not state exact numbers that have been supportive and exact numbers that have been critical? The answer to that question is because the numbers are not like that, in fact the numbers of complaints and criticisms are remarkably low and until the CWI went on this campaign the numbers that were supportive were vast and people like Alan and Karen Earp who owned www.tigertemple.co.uk have dropped the website because of the adverse affect it has on their personal lives. If you work for the RSPCA you can't be seen to support a place that is cruel to animals. And that is how the CWI has run its campaign, with rumour, innuendo, and intimidation by their extremist followers.
The only person who gave the CWI anything real to go on was Fiona Patchett who wrote her own report that should not be dismissed. It is critical but of course it is also seven years old so whilst it is historically relevant it is also not current. But I believe this was the catalyst that started the CWI off and with good reason. I would support any organisation that drove the temple on to better the facilities but the CWI have a lost cause that it will not drop because of ego's.
The main culprit for this contemporary egotistical pursuance is Edwin Weik who has managed to find some following in Thailand. The CWI fund an organisation called Wildlife Friends For Thailand, or WFFT, and that gibbon sanctuary is managed by Edwin Weik. Weik is a self-obsessed man who enjoys publicity. I think that's a good attribute if you need to get the World's attention and Weik certainly does that. Unfortunately he is also devoid of any moral fibre and will use any available method to get his own way. He is seriously disliked by key people in authorities in Thailand who tolerate him because they don't know what to do with him. When he trod on someone's toes with a newspaper comment, that person (sorry but there is a court order on naming the person) asked the DNP to check all of the WFFT park's licenses and permits knowing the sanctuary had at that time several Japanese macaques, a leopard, one tiger, and several other protected species in their possession. That lead to the DNP raiding the WFFT and confiscating all the regulated animals. Again that only played into Weiks hands because adverse publicity is the best kind of publicity. But it is the personality of Weik that is obnoxious and unyielding that leads to this kind of confrontation. On a smaller scale, he has twice been banned from the Lonely Planet forum, a place where he should be procuring a following and potential employees but he is not the diplomatic type and made a ferocious personal attack on me that was mostly lies. On Facebook he had to make the WFFT profile members only because of too many defamatory remarks by his self and complaints about things he wrote about other Facebook members. This is the person responsible for the CWI pursuing the case against the temple and he does it for funding and public attention. Like Guna Subramaniam before him he lacks the skills to negotiate with the temple or to compile facts and figures and resorts to innuendo and lies and that is why he found himself embroiled in a Police enquiry and a civil court gagging order.
"CWI's SE Asia representative to the Temple also made formal visits to the Temple in November 2006 and January 2007, to discuss the concerns with the temple management, but they were not open to positive dialogue."
(Excerpt because material is being duplicated)
The CWI had no such animal in their camp. Guna Subramaniam was at that time the CWI's SE Asia representative. He wasn't anything more than that and the CWI had no representative at, in, or to, the temple and is why he failed miserably to make any impression on his visit to discuss visitors concerns. Of course that wouldn't have been helped by the temple being aware that Fiona Patchett had given the information to the CWI to begin with and nor could Guna Subramaniam speak Thai. This bit is conjecture but I believe Guna Subramaniam passed information to the temple that Fiona Patchett was the source of the CWI's criticisms of the temple's practices so the temple were unlikely to be receptive to any of the trio. I also suspect that in order to court favour with the temple Guna Subramaniam also gave the name of Sybelle Foxcroft to the temple as a second informer. It is a fact that he did divulge her name to the temple but the reason for it is supposition on my part though there are other factors that lead me to this conclusion. With little understanding of Thai culture Subramaniam failed to get what he wanted which was simply an audience so he must have been pretty miserable at his job when the likes of Sybelle Foxcroft can still gain entry to and the attention of the temple. The temple did not trust Guna Subramaniam nor the CWI so they were not going to discuss anything with them and is why a year later the CWI tried the route of Thailand's Director of National Parks which was far more successful. Or would have been if only Subramaniam hadn't at the same time given the name of Sybelle Foxcroft who was still under cover inside the temple but using her real name. This now left the CWI with four problems. 1, Subramaniam was useless to them. 2, Sybelle Foxcroft was furious with them. 3, Fiona Patchett did not trust them. And 4, The temple wouldn't discuss anything with them. While the CWI describe this catastrophic cock-up as the temple were "not open to positive dialogue."
The tiger Temple is not responsible for the spatial distribution of panthera tigris but "These population estimates are based on survey techniques, which some experts believe substantially over-estimate true population numbers."
Take note the use of the word 'some'. The vast majority of experts believe they have got it hugely wrong. The IUCN in a cooperative carried out a global survey to discover the rate of special loss from the wild. The figure they arrived at varied greatly but was somewhere between 150 and 200 individual species go extinct every day. This was a painstaking study for those on the ground who each had to mark out one square metre of land (you have not misread that, it was 1msq) and with a magnifying glass list everything living in that square. Every day they had to go back and study it again and again and count what was lost. Today however the science world realise the mistake in the study that they only counted what was no longer there. They may not be extinct at all because they ignored new arrivals to the study areas. Conservation scientists generally believe they have seriously over-estimated the rate of extinction because they studied a little over 100 square metres of the planet and used that to model the rest. What the CWI's comment should have said is "These population estimates are based on survey techniques, which some experts believe are substantially flawed". What is known is that apex creatures require large areas and mankind is reducing that availability and as such we are killing wild tigers off and this has no relevance to the Tiger Temple who is not chopping down rain forest for farming.
Breeding Conservation and Trade
The next two chapters in the report I firmly believe are a direct result of previous articles I have written on anachak. The explanation about global captive tigers and breeding did not exist in the original CWI report and has only appeared since my attempts to correct their erroneous accusations. Even the section titled 'Breeding and Trade in Thailand' is designed to make you think the temple are contravening the law. There is a theme throughout the report that is to make it look like there is simply too much circumstantial evidence for there not to be something going on.
"CWI learned through meetings with the Department of National Parks (DNP), that the Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery in Kanchanburi (Tiger Temple) is not registered with the Thai Government, and so has no legal grounds to hold or breed tigers in captivity. According to the DNP, they informed the Temple in 2005 that the Temple is not a licensed or registered facility. However, since there were no government facilities to house any confiscated tigers, the Temple was allowed to continue caring for them on the condition that neither breeding nor trade was to occur."
This I believe is correct with a couple of minor corrections in that Subramaniam had a meeting with the DNP on behalf of the CWI where the DNP said that the temple was not registered to breed red list species but that did not mean the temple could not hold tigers. The DNP informed the temple that they must register and obtain permits to continue and the DNP did not confiscate the tigers. The DNP has powers to remove any animal from anyone but they decided to leave the cats where they were because there was no sign of abuse or mistreatment. The DNP also issued the temple with an order to not breed or trade any animals until they had obtained the necessary permits. In February 2009 the temple's application for a zoo licence and breeding permits was approved. Issue is also made of the fact that the land next to the temple is where the zoo licence is registered not at the temple but the land was cited in the application. The license is registered to Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno.
Histories Breeding and Illegal Trade
The report attempts to make a point about the chronology of the tigers at the temple but it is confusing. I do not think this is deliberate. It is just badly written but then again so is the record keeping and tiger history at the temple. Some may feel that is unforgivable and whilst I am not trying to be an apologist for the temple's past misdemeanours it does not picture today's temple practices. The CWI say the historical slate should not be wiped clean while Sybelle Foxcroft says the temple cannot be trusted. They are entitled to their opinion but opinion is all it is. I am of the opinion that the temple is improving daily and stamping out poor practices such as corner cutting over transport permits. The temple is not the only culprit for this kind of malpractice but is being pilloried as such. Amongst some that have also not obtained the appropriate permits are the WFFT funded by the CWI, WARF also funded by the CWI, London Zoo, Craig Busch' Zion Wildlife Park, Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo, the list of miscreants is endless. This isn't to deflect away from the temple something for which they should be held accountable but the cats and illicit transactions the CWI refer to are a very long time ago.
If you intend to get into stone throwing you should open your windows first. The CWI was founded to do work of a sterling nature and with all good intentions but it is no longer that. It is a money generating machine which has to provide some sort of funding to encourage further philanthropy from its benefactors. In the course of trying to find out why the CWI had such a strong case against the temple I came across vast amounts of information, evidence, catagoric proof, of wrong doing and willfull misrepresentation that probably should be investigated further. To be honest, I simply cannot be bothered with any of these NGO's any more because of their backstabbing, childish, and often irresponsible behaviour and language. My partner said to me 'Why bother, no one will thank you, and it is not right to publish stories about other people'. It is called Karma, Ying Yang, what goes around comes around. Waan worries it will pay me back but one day it will come back round for the CWI because they have lost sight of what they set out to do which was to make change. They succeeded, and instead of patting themselves on the back they want a lynching.
One such story that came my way was from a student who wants to stay anonymous. It is about WARF, an organisation supported by the CWI. Read WARF and CWI in the menu above.
More to come...