Thailand: Dead tiger cubs found in temple amid trafficking fears

Thai wildlife authorities found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple on Wednesday as they removed live animals in response to international pressure over suspected trafficking and abuse.
Channel NewsAsia 1 Jun 16;

BANGKOK: Thai wildlife authorities found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple on Wednesday as they removed live animals in response to international pressure over suspected trafficking and abuse.

The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok had become a tourist destination where visitors snapped selfies with bottle-fed cubs.

But the temple has been investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and abuse. A raid that began on Monday is the latest move in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control.

Tiger parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer in a kitchen area, said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks.

"Foreign volunteers at the temple today told us about it and showed us the freezer. Perhaps they felt what the temple is doing isn't right," Adisorn said.

"They must be of some value for the temple to keep them," he said. "But for what is beyond me."

Officials wearing protective masks displayed the bodies of the cubs to media at the temple. Also on display was the body of a Binturong, a protected species commonly known as a bearcat, which the authorities found with the cub carcasses.

The temple said in a comment on its Facebook page that wildlife authorities had already been aware that the carcasses were in the freezer. The carcasses of cubs that had died had been kept, rather than cremated, since 2010 on the instructions of a former vet, it said.

Adisorn told Reuters the department had not previously known about the cubs.

"The temple has notified us when grown tigers die, but never the cubs," he said.

Officials have moved 61 live tigers from the temple since Monday, Adisorn said, leaving 76 still there.

Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory. Exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, some of them endangered species, can often be found on sale in markets.

"It's clear that the welfare of the tigers is not a priority and their lives are full of abuse and commercial exploitation for the entertainment of tourists," said Jan Schmidt, Asia-Pacific Wildlife Adviser at World Animal Protection, in a statement.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Simon Webb and Nick Macfie)

- Reuters


Thai police charge 22 with wildlife trafficking at Tiger Temple
Thai police have charged 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, with wildlife trafficking and removed more dead animals including a bear and a leopard from the infamous Tiger Temple, authorities said on Friday.
Channel NewsAsia 3 Jun 16;

KANCHANABURI, Thailand: Thai police have charged 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, with wildlife trafficking and removed more dead animals including a bear and a leopard from the infamous Tiger Temple, authorities said on Friday.

The temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of the capital, Bangkok, has been a major tourist attraction for more than two decades, with visitors paying 600 baht (US$17) admission to pose for photographs with the tigers.

Wildlife activists have accused the temple of illegally breeding the tigers while some visitors on online forums complained that the tigers appeared sedated.

The temple denies the accusations.

Adisorn Nuchdamrong, from Thailand's Department of National Parks, said 22 people had been charged with wildlife possession and trafficking, including 17 members of the temple's foundation and three monks trying to flee with a truckload of tiger skins.

It followed the grim discovery on Wednesday of the bodies of 40 tigers cubs inside a freezer.

It remains unclear why the dead tiger cubs were being stored, though tiger bones and body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

"We've confiscated all the hard disks of closed circuit cameras in this temple for police to find evidence of wrongdoing," Adisorn said.

The temple officially opened in 1994 close to a wild tiger habitat. It received its first tiger cub, which had been found by villagers, in 1999.

The cub died soon after but villagers kept bringing cubs to the temple, usually when the mothers had been killed by poachers, the temple said.

Repeated efforts to shut down the temple have been blocked by the monks.

Thailand is a well-known trafficking hub of illicit wildlife products, including ivory.

Thailand's wildlife department began raiding the temple on Monday. There were 137 tigers inside the temple and 119 have been removed.

The World Wildlife Fund said in April that the number of wild tigers in the world stands at around 3,890, with more than 100 wild tigers in Thailand.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie)

- Reuters

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