Tigers at Thai Temple Drugged Up or Loved Up?

Abbot Unconcerned With Criticism

There are those who argue that, for the moment, tigers may be better off in captivity than they are in the wild. Mass deforestation and rampant poaching have left just 200 wild tigers in Thailand and 5,000 or 6,000 in the whole world, making them an endangered species.

Steinhardt believes the temple's tigers raise awareness about the plight of tigers in the wild.

"Hopefully, people get to love them by seeing them so close and then they go bak and if they come across any tiger conservation activity, they'll support them in the future," she said.

The abbot seems unfazed by all the criticism.

"If they have the question, OK, come to see, come to see," he said.

He believes people see what they want to see, and he welcomes skeptics and experts to come and spend time at the temple.

All of the employees of the temple asked ABC News to make it known that the temple actively seeks advice from people with expertise with wild animals and invites such people to spend time helping out and educating the staff.

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."

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