'Tiger Temple' abbot in hospital after being bitten, scratched

The abbot of the "Tiger Temple" is in hospital with no visitors allowed after being bitten by one of his big cats on Saturday.

Temple followers said yesterday that no serious injury was done to Phra Wisut Sarathane, the abbot of Kanchanaburi's Pa Luang Ta Bua Temple. The abbot was reportedly attacked by an adult male Bengal tiger while taking it to an exhibition area.

The tiger reportedly chomped on Phra Wisut's arm and scratched his face.

He was sent to Thanakhan Hospital for an emergency operation and has been kept in the intensive care unit.

Suphap Korfuk, kamnan of Tambon Sing, said the abbot's condition was not as severe as depicted by some media.

The abbot could still walk, talk and eat. There were just scratch wounds to his face, which had already been closed up with stitches, he said.

"As far as I know, the abbot fell because of the steep and slippery walkway and his arm smashed on a rock, which caused his bone to break," Suphap said.

"The doctors do not allow visits to the abbot as he has heart disease and needs close medical care," he said.

The temple was closed to tourists until further notice upon the advice of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

Nares Chombun, director of the Wild Animal Nurture Group, said the department would talk further about the fate of the tigers today - whether they will remain at the temple or be moved to the department's breeding centres.

"Before the tiger attacked the abbot, the temple had asked the department to take care of all the |tigers by opening a licensed zoo, but after the incident the department will discuss this matter with the temple," he said.