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Published: March 5th 2010
The bridge over the river at Kanchanaburi.
Thousands died building this bridge during WW2. The film 'The bridge on the River Kwai was based on the horrors endured building this rail line to Burma (Mynanmar).
You'll notice on this blog some photos of tigers being led around by Monks at the so called 'Tiger Temple' near Kanchanaburi. This is a deeply controversial tourist attraction. Personally I found it quite disturbing and unsettling. Tigers are wild animals - its really not appropriate to have tourists queuing up to have their photos taken in close proximity to them. So, why did I go? I suppose I wanted to see the place for myself but I refrained from having my photo taken petting a tiger. Serious accusations have been made about the place and a number of tourist websites such as Kanchanaburi-info.com no longer recommend that people visit the place.
Very serious accusations have been made about animal mistreatment and illegal trading and breeding programs. Care for the Wild International carried out an investigation and concluded that:
See the full report here
It is possible that the Kanchanaburi Tiger Temple started with the good intention of providing emergency accommodation for tiger cubs who had been rescued from poachers. However, it would appear that commercial interests have long since overtaken these considerations. Subsequent construction, breeding, and illegal exchange activities appear to have been developed almost entirely with tourism in mind, rather than to benefit the needs of tigers.
The animal welfare problems at the Temple are severe and include poor accommodation, lack of appropriate environments, veterinary problems, and deliberate physical abuse of the tigers to make them compliant for visiting tourists.
The Tiger Temple makes no discernable contribution to tiger conservation and does not meet any of the requirements of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) for participation in a captive conservation breeding programme. The genetic makeup of the Temple's tigers is unknown, and the captive environment does not in any way approach the WAZA's minimum requirements. The Temple therefore would not be permitted to participate in any recognised conservation breeding programme.
Evidence of illegal movements of tigers across international borders by Temple staff is now uncovered. At least 12 have been shipped across international borders without the necessary permits. International trade in tigers and their parts is the main cause of the species' demise in the wild.
My main reason for visiting Kanchanaburi was to see the 'Bridge on the River Kwai'. There are some very good museums in the town which document the horrors of the 'Death Railway' built by the Japenese during the Second World War.
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