Grisly find at Thailand 'Tiger Temple'

By Lindsay de Freitas
02 June 2016

Please note this article contains photos that may upset sensitive viewers.

Please note this article contains photos that may upset sensitive viewers.

Wildlife authorities in Thailand have discovered the carcasses of 40 newborn tiger cubs in freezers at the "Tiger Temple," in Kanchanaburi Province, west of Bangkok.

In the temple, which has long been suspected of wildlife trafficking activity, the cub remains were found in a freezer which stored food for the tigers - along with the body of a binturong, a protected species commonly known as a bear-cat, and various animal horns.

"The temple never registered these dead cubs, they are illegal,” said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of Thailand's wildlife department.

The Buddhist temple Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno, also known as Tiger Temple has become a popular tourist destination.

"Visitors flock there in droves, eager to snap selfies with bottle-fed tiger cubs. The temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, but with illegal animal trafficking on the rise in Thailand authorities have recently begun to suspect illegal activity at the establishment."

Edwin Wiek, head of the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, confirmed that the discovery of the carcasses mean that the raid was not in vain.

"Under the CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] treaty, no wildlife farm or sanctuary can engage in the breeding of protected species," said.

"These animals were bred and hidden away. I believe that they were stored to be sold for parts on the black market."

Authorities started their raid on the temple earlier this week, in an attempt to remove all the 137 tigers at Tiger Temple after allegations of wildlife trafficking were made.

It has since been reported that 52 tigers live tigers has been tranquilized and removed from the temple.

"There was some resistance from the community, they didn't understand why we were taking them (the tigers) from the temple when they look so peaceful and fine at the temple," said Teunjai Noochdumrong, the director of Thailand's Wildlife Conservation Office.

"We tried talking to them, explaining to them that the tigers belong to the country."

The temple and monks have denied any allegations of irresponsible breeding programmes, animal trafficking and animal abuse.

Thailand has long been a hub for the illegal trafficking of wildlife and exotic birds, mammals and reptiles (many of them endangered species) can often be found on sale in local markets.

Sources: Aljazeera.com, guardian.com, reuters.com

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