Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tigers in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Tigers in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Yesterday I took a tour of a Tiger park/refuge operated by Buddhist Monks about an hour north of Kanchanaburi, Thailand. This is east of Bangkok not far from the Thai/Burma border. It's a big place and they apparently have 127 Tigers there. They also keep other animals such as Water Buffalo, Sun Bears and Wild Boars, but Tigers are the main event.
Nice Kitty...
It's hard to grasp just how big and powerful these animals are until you are right beside one touching it and hoping it doesn't somehow think the spot you're scratching is an irritation or that you might be tasty. It would be so easy to become a kibble snack if they decided you were. They are so, so beautiful and they pour out this wonderful powerful energy. Primal.

Either a Baby or this one shrank in the wash… okay, just a baby and very cute. 
It's easy to get lulled into a sense of complacency in the area where they let you touch and interact with the Tigers, but I did see them take offense to another Tiger one or two times when being led from one place to another. Downright snarky with each other. The handlers, most of which are not Buddhist Monks, seem not to be rattled by all this and verbal scolding seems to do the trick. Of course some of them have a broom with them in case things get really sketchy. See below…
No troubles buddy or we bust out the broom. Don't make me come back there...
The Buddhist Monks are also amazing when they play, feed or interact with the Tigers. I am standing beside a Monk here bottle feeding a really enormous Tiger who was loving it. It's hard to tell from the picture because the Tiger is sitting beside a tree, but this was a very large cat. Incredible hard their muscles are when you touch them. This other Monk was playing on the ground with this other one like you might do with a house cat. Just waaaayyy bigger.

I only saw one Tiger in an enclosure like the old style traditional zoo exhibits and I don't think he liked it much and quite frankly neither did I. Hard enough seeing such powerful predators being kept at all, but this one example bothered me a lot. I understand he/she was only in there temporarily and briefly, but I was still pretty uncomfortable seeing it. While many or most Tigers were kept sequestered (and I could see why after a little rhubarb here and there), their enclosures were much larger and designed for more privacy and comfortable habitat I thought.


Anyway, it was a wonderful experience being able to see and touch Tigers like this and thankful I had the opportunity. The contrast between spending time around Elephants a week or two ago with Tigers yesterday is pretty profound as you might expect. For me, it was mostly in the feeling I got looking into their eyes as well as that indefinable energy you get in close proximity. Couldn't be more different and both are powerful in their unique ways. Next stop - a visit to the real Bridge on the River Kwai and some pretty spectacular waterfalls...