KANCHANABURI — The abbot of the province's renowned “Tiger Temple” is to be kept in hospital for observation and recuperation after he was mauled by one of the scores of animals that have made the monastery world famous.
A doctor treating Phra Vissuthisaradhera, better known as Luangta Chan, said the abbot of Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno was in good condition and could talk normally.
Dr Sahathep Sawarngnet, director of Thanakarn Hospital, said the monk told him he was walking Hern Fa, a male Bengal tiger aged about seven or eight, on the temple’s ground. The abbot had raised the tiger from a young age and loved it very much.
Suddenly Luangta Chan slipped and fell to the ground, jerking a leash he was holding that was attached to Hern Fa’s neck. Dr Sahathep said the sudden jerk startled the big cat which attacked the monk. It mauled his face and shoulder.
The 64-yar-old monk required three stitches to the cheek near his upper lip. He also sustained deep scratches elsewhere on his face and a right arm fracture when he fell onto the ground and hit his arm on a rock. (Story continues after the picture)
A photo taken by a temple visitor shows Luangta Chan's injuries after he was attacked by a tiger born and reared at the Tiger Temple.
Pol Col Supitpong Pakjarung, vice president of Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Foundation, said Luangta Chan was on the left side of Hern Fa when he fell.
“It’s initially assumed that the cause was likely due to hot weather which upset the tiger. Plus, with the abbot having been abroad for a long time, the tiger may not have remembered him,” Pol Col Supitpong said.
The medical team treating him have refused visitors, saying the monk was suffering chronic diseases of the heart and diabetes, and they wanted to watch his condition closely, according to Suparb Korfak, chief of Singha sub-district.
Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua temple is a famous, but controversial, tourist attraction as it has been permitted to take care of the animals even though possession of endangered species in Thailand is illegal.
The Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) first announced the seizure of 10 tigers kept at the temple about a decade ago because the temple had no permit to keep them.
However, officials then asked the temple to help take care of the animals instead of taking them back.
Department chief Nipon Chotiban said he did not know why the authorities wanted the temple to take care of the tigers. The number of tigers has since increased from 10 to 146. The department recently wanted the temple to hand them over, saying it had no permits to keep them. But Luangta Chan and his disciples are fiercely opposed to the removal of the tigers and other wildlife from the temple.
Last month, forestry officials used a crane to remove six protected Asian black bears held illegally at the temple after 100 monks and disciples blocked the gates to prevent them from taking the bears away.
On April 24, a committee set up to resolve the dispute between the DNP and the temple called a meeting attended by the two sides and concerned agencies.
The meeting agreed that the 146 tigers and their future offspring were state property and could remain at the temple on the condition that it must seek a legal permit to operate a zoo. The temple must not exploit the tigers and use legal ways to generate income to feed the animals.
The DNP would also work closely with the temple and its foundation to ensure all activities carried out at the temple were constructive and not breaching the law, the meeting said.