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A male tiger leading tourists back from the tiger-petting arena to the monastery, followed by his two-month-old cubs

Tiger Temple is the colloquial name for Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Yannasampanno, a Buddhist monastery at Kanchanaburi in Thailand.

A male tiger leading tourists back from the tiger-petting arena to the monastery, followed by his two-month-old cubs

Credit: Melisa Lee

Its relationship with tigers started in 1999, when the Abbot took in a number of injured and orphaned cubs. The monastery then started to breed its tigers. Now it receives hundreds of paying visitors a day wanting to stroke and be photographed with them. Over the years, there has been both positive press for Tiger Temple, including tourism awards and a film, and negative reports that animals are mistreated behind the scenes. In 2008, a report by Care for the Wild International, based on an undercover investigation, claimed major welfare problems, unlicensed breeding of the tigers and trading with a tiger farm in Laos. And in an open letter to the Thai authorities, the International Tiger Coalition criticised the temple’s claim that it is involved in tiger conservation.

Malaysian Melisa Lee’s picture shows a male tiger leading tourists back from the tiger-petting arena to the monastery, followed by his two-month-old cubs (an unusual sight, since cubs would normally stay with their mother until at least a year old).

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