When I was looking for a picture to go with a quote from my book The Silent Ecocide, I thought the above photo was very fitting. Then a friend pointed out the reality of these Thailand Monks that ‘took care’ of the tigers.
Ironically, the story behind this photograph and the caring human is in danger of extinction, sadly validates the truth of the statement even more. Another reflection of the dysfunction of humans in relation to nature. Even Buddhist monks, people we would expect from some knowledge of their spiritual beliefs and practices to respect and not exploit fellow species and nature, were in fact pushing wild tigers to extinction by stealing tiger cubs from their wild mothers, to attract tourists to the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bu –Tiger Temple in Thailand. The temple is situated in Kanchanaburi near the border of Burma. Fifteen years ago, the temple took in a tiger cub as a result of its mother being a victim to poachers, according to the official story of the Tiger Temple, this is how they grew and expanded into the Tiger Sanctuary that they claimed to be for the benefit of the tigers rescued from poachers and allowed to live alongside the Monks. The temple grounds had grown and so had the number of tigers and tiger cubs housed there. While there are less than 3000 tigers living in the wild, tigers are highly in endanger of extinction and at the current rate of poaching and hunting for their pelts and trade in Chinese Medicine, it is estimated that there won’t be any wild tigers left in 20 years’ time.
Volunteers at the Tiger Temple worked under-cover in 2007 for ‘Care for the Wild’ investigations, which obtained evidence suggesting that while the Temple publicly claimed to be a Tiger Sanctuary, the Temple operated as a breeding facility and was involved in the illegal tiger trade, abuse and cruelty and did not adhere to any real conservation efforts or laws. The operation was organized solely for financial gain from almost 1000 daily tourists visiting the grounds of the Temple willing to pay several hundred dollars to take pictures with the tigers.
After several raids by government officials in February 2015, following hundreds of complaints that the Temple was also acquiring other wild animals illegally, Thailand’s Department of National Parks (DNP) director- general, Nipon Chotiban, in April 2015 ordered all tigers to be removed from the Tiger Temple. This was a relief for wildlife conservationists and animal rights activists who have been fighting for over 15 years to close the facility down after mounting evidence and reports of abuse and illegal wildlife trading.
This story illustrates the deep level of corruption due to the desire for financial gain masked behind a Buddhist Temple. This is very significant as an example of the inherent corrupt values of global society in relation to wildlife and nature. The very fact that Buddhist monks were operating a black market for the tiger trade along with other animals for financial gain is sickening and reflects the deeper global issues and flaws in human consciousness today and how conservation laws must be changed globally to discourage these types of covert corrupt operations.
The caring human is in danger of extinction for many reasons that reflect the dysfunctional human psyche and how we see ourselves as separate from nature to the point that this perversion can infect even the purest Buddhist beliefs and practices. Buddhism is the closest religion to reflecting spiritual ecology and deep ecological principles that we are nature and nature is us. An ecological universal law that cannot be denied.
The example of tourists willing to pay several hundred dollars to be photographed with the tigers is another narcissistic example that parallels that of a more horrifying example with the elitism of Trophy hunters that pay up to 450, 000 dollars for permits to hunt big game and to ship out the results of their killing sprees. The recent public outrage of the killing (with a bow and arrow causing an agonizing slow death), skinning and beheading of the much loved Zimbabwe Cecil the Lion who was part of a university conservation study, was murdered by an American dentist that killed such animals for a hobby. Trophy hunting is fuelled by the human ego, driven by status and narcissism, so these trophy hunters can boast to their friends how they killed these majestic wild creatures.
While African Bushmen that are the real hunters and gatherers, are not legally permitted to hunt any animals for food, not that they would choose to hunt big game animals in the first place. Why are our most magnificent creatures called ‘Big Game? I don’t see any game here in killing already endangered species for the sheer egoic pleasure of murder in a time when we most need to preserve big cats, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, wolves, bears, bison and deer.
Trophy hunting is a form of elite white colonialism that is thriving, hunting for pleasure rather than for food and survival reinforces to Africans, the dominance of colonial rule that is still hovering behind the scenes in Africa. Hunting for pleasure has always been a favourite pass time of the elite and recently has grown very popular with celebrities, male and female which includes the sick ritual self-portrait photograph, ‘Selfie’, to be uploaded onto Facebook with the murderer and the lifeless corpse of their animal victim propped up next to the killer. Trophy hunting needs to be banned worldwide, it does not contribute to the conservation of species, nor does the money involved go to be used for conservation, there is no proof of this. However, it is driven to satiate the human ego and the need to assert their status publicly.
There is something deeply wrong with the conservation laws protecting endangered species and the systems of the organizations involved such as The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which give out permits to rich Trophy hunters for hundreds of thousands in finances, while we are living in an environmental crisis which involves a fast rate of extinction especially due to poaching and hunting of these ‘Big Game’ animals.
There needs to be a re-evaluation of the role of many conservation organizations that are fronts to deeper levels of corruption for the elite. On a level of social evolution and human understanding, there needs to be a re-evaluation of values in human society that is fuelling the narcissistic motives that are contributing to species extinction. ‘The Silent Ecocide’ book barely touches on the deeper levels of corruption in ‘Environmentalism’, the subject is overwhelming material for a further book. The goal of my book The Silent Ecocide is to give an overall picture and examples of some of the solutions. Human consciousness needs to make a great leap, if our fellow species and humanity have any chance of survival. The Silent Ecocide delves into some economical,socio-political and solution technologies that could be the answer for some of the more major problems in the environmental crisis. We need to change and strengthen our political systems that govern environmental conservation laws, so that people with more money than they need cannot have privileged access to killing highly endangered animals, this type of archaic elitism should not be tolerated and cannot continue.
An important part of this crisis is an examination of the human relationship to nature and how it has been influenced by corporatization and austerity of politics and a lack of value in politics for species or ecology while corporations have more rights than the rights of nature or endangered species to the point that politicians can be bought to rewrite environmental conservation laws for corporate profit and for the privileges of the elite. Part of this crisis is also the lack of emphasis on ecological education or values for nature and species on every level of society in all cultures.
‘Environmental Conservation’ has been corrupted because it is lucrative, this corruption includes high level operations involving the elite and governments, politicians and many very well-known environmental organizations which are fronts for deeper levels of corruption driving genocide and ecocide, the illegal arms trade and animal trafficking in Africa, Asia and South America, animal trafficking alone generates hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.
The fact that the rarer the species drives a higher price in its value is a reflection of this corruption and only speeds up the extinction rate of endangered species, this would not be happening if the system was not fundamentally flawed. There are people at the very top raking in lucrative finances due to the way the conservation laws and systems are presently running.
The rate of financial value of a species of animal or plant that becomes increasingly rarer should be less, not more, as a mechanism to protect its survival and when their population is increased, so should their financial value increase too, this would be the way for the successful conservation of all critically endangered species, we can do this by implementing principles from natural capital in ecological economics to make this work successfully. It should not be the other way around, that while a species is highly endangered and on the brink of extinction, that its financial worth is increased, this does nothing to help successful conservation of a species, it encourages the extinction of a species in a money motivated world, it is no accident that the system is as it is. This further illustrates that humanity treats animals and nature like objects to be used and exploited, a rare tiger or exotic animal species or plant is not an object like some bygone antique in an expensive antique shop. We need to make sure that the most critically endangered species do not become bygone memories of human greed. International conservation laws continue to ignore this simple basic fact and unless we make urgent changes to the system, we will see most of our majestic creatures disappear in the next few decades. This repeatedly highlights the need for human consciousness to change.
The wrong kind of conservation has become a lucrative daily business which is conveniently overlooking this detail at the cost of species exploitation and extinction and the decimation of our last great wildernesses. Zoos, ‘wildlife sanctuaries’ and safari parks are all part of the profiteering over species extinction. If you really care for our fellow creatures, boycott these industries.
We each have a duty to educate ourselves on ecology and to take a closer look behind the scenes of ‘environmental organizations’ who founded these organizations and we must investigate popular places claiming to be wildlife sanctuaries that gain a great deal of finance out of displaying highly endangered species. We each have a duty to become more aware to ensure the whole structure of environmental conservation is changed, we must demand transparency within large government and non- governmental organizations, to see where the finances are going especially at the very top levels, to eradicate privileges for corporations and the elite as a process to eradicate austerity. Ecocide is being driven by this form of corruption along with narcissism and our deeper lack of spiritual connectivity with nature and other species. When it was suggested I probably shouldn’t use the pictures of the Monks and the Tigers, you now look at that picture after reading this and it creates a deeper disappointment and frustration because things are never as they seem to be in this world which is why the environmental crisis is a crisis of human consciousness.
The Tiger Temple in Thailand and the loss of Cecil the Lion are current stories that illustrate this deep urgency for change as we witness the depth of corruption in all levels of politics. There is a lack of genuinely caring human beings left in this world and there is a profound lack of ecological literacy. We are in danger of becoming extinct along with every other species, because most people put the priorities of financial gain above the strong desire to truly fight for the protection of endangered species and for Mother Earth, the only way to change this, is to change the economy to become an ecological economy, which it was primarily meant to be in the first place.
Humanity cannot live without ecology, we need to conserve every other species because every species is a valuable piece of the jigsaw puzzle in ecosystems, to maintain healthy ecosystems and a healthy planet we must take care of each piece of the puzzle in this precious web of ecology that keeps us alive.
The famous Cree proverb is a prophesy manifesting “Only when the last tree has died, the last river poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize that one cannot eat money ” .
The Wrong Kind of Green
NGO fronts for deeper levels of corruption
April 2015- Tiger Temple closed down
Undercover investigation findings at the Tiger Temple
A volunteer’s investigation
Beyond Cecil- A deeper look into the Trophy Hunting Industry
The Silent Ecococide-The Environmental Crisis is a Crisis of Human Consciousness. By Carlita Shaw, an ecologist, writer, teacher and rainforest campaigner that lives in Ecuador.