Via The Huffington Post, an exploration of Thailand's Tiger Temple; a refuge for the endangered species. From ABC News an exploration of the temple and tourist attraction where tigers and cubs mingle with monks and visitors.
They call it the Tiger Temple, and its story is the stuff of fairy tales. According to Abbot Pra-Acharn Phusit, a tiger cub orphaned by poachers was brought to the temple years ago.
The abbot cared for her and, as word spread, more people brought sickly and orphaned cubs to the temple's doorstep. Those cubs went on to have their own cubs, and nine years on there are now 34 tigers living here.
The Buddhists believe in reincarnation and the abbot feels that these tigers are his family. As he told ABC News, "I think they are my babies: my son, my daughter, my father, mother. If not in the present life, in the past life."
Buddhists also believe that animals, like humans, are sentient beings.
The temple has drawn controversy, as well as tourists. Many speculate that the tame tigers must be drugged. But, the monks insist that their docility is explained by the fact that they have been nurtured by human hands from the time they are three weeks old. Their ultimate aim, according to the abbot, is to find suitable land to release them safely into the wild and allow them to repopulate. In the meanwhile, they feel they are keeping them safe from the deforestation and poachers that have put this and 5 other subspecies of tigers on the endangered list. (The other three subspecies are already extinct.)
For now, the abbot is content to continue pursuing his dream of repopulating the forests of Thailand with the descendants of his tigers. As the Buddhist proverb goes, "if we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep walking."