Animal lovers are offered a unique opportunity to interact with wild tigers when they become a volunteer at the Tiger Temple on the outskirts of Kanchanaburi. Pha Luang Ta Bua Yannasampanno Monastery, which is home to a large number of fully grown tigers as well as tiger cubs and a large group of other animals, is situated just 30 minutes from the riverside town of Kanchanaburi.
Wat Pa Luang Bua
Wat Pa Luang Bua began as a forest monastery like many others in Thailand. Local villagers began bringing injured birds and animals to the temple and entrusting them to the tender care of the monks. Before long, the temple had a varied menagerie; with deer, horses, gibbons and boar all enjoying the free and easy hospitality.
Then, in 1999, people started bringing tiger cubs to the temple. In many cases, these cubs had been snatched from poachers in the nearby jungles and Abbot Pha Acorn Chan and the other monks at the temple had to quickly learn how to coexist with the tigers and raise them.
In order to help offset the ever increasing costs of caring for the tigers, the Abbot decided to open the monastery and surrounding area to the public between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, when the tigers are at their most docile. However, caring for the tigers and making sure that the people who visit the Tiger Temple have a fun and safe experience is no easy task, and several volunteers are required to perform various tasks each day.
Some of the jobs that volunteers at the Tiger Temple are asked to perform are preparing food for the animals, cleaning the Tiger Island area, aiding and assisting tourists and helping to build new enclosures. Volunteers need to be prepared to work hard for six days a week, staring at 7am and finishing at around 5pm. Some of the other types of tasks that volunteers may be required to perform include assisting the resident vet in treating injured animals, creating signs, data collection and administrative work.
Because the nature of this work involves a certain amount of risk, it is important that volunteers are fit and healthy and are able to work full days in the heat. Previous animal handling experience is also essential, as well as good communication skills in English. Successful applicants will be aged between 18 and 50 and be available to work at the Tiger Temple for at least a month. Taking out personal travel insurance is also a must, while it is recommended that volunteers ensure that all their necessary vaccinations are up to date.
Food and basic accommodation is provided for all volunteers and this is an excellent opportunity to experience life in a Buddhist monastery and interact with wild tigers while learning about the Thai culture. While most things are provided for volunteers, they are asked to bring items such as a torch, an alarm clock, a set of white clothes for daily meditation, a sheet or mattress and a pillow, mosquito repellent, dark coloured clothes and a camera.
People who wish to volunteer to work at the Tiger Temple should fill in the Volunteer Application Form at www.tigertemple.org and submit it along with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Potential volunteers must show that they understand the requirements for volunteering and include their resume complete with a description of any related experience and education.
By Kirsty Turner