Thai police arrest rare wildlife 'butchers'

AFP Yahoo News 6 Feb 12;

Thai police busted a grisly exotic wildlife slaughterhouse in Bangkok when officers caught four men in the act of chopping up a tiger in a residential home, officials said Monday.

Elephant, zebra, wildebeest and lion remains were also found at the suburban property as well as meat kept in a refrigerator that police and wildlife activists said was likely to be destined for human consumption.

"We assume that the meat is from tigers because we found tiger skin and heads. From what I've seen, I think it's two tigers," Thai Nature Crime Police Commander, Police Colonel Norasak Hemnithi, told AFP.

He said police arrested seven men and are hunting another, believed to be the owner of an exotic animal restaurant in Bangkok, which has operated in the capital for a decade.

"We believe that this butchers house is mainly to provide orders for the restaurant, but those arrested said they sometimes shipped meat and stuffed animals to China," he added.

Wildlife anti-trafficking group Freeland, which often works with the Thai police on operations, said local police chanced on the gruesome scene after encountering a man whose hands were covered in blood in Bangkok's Yannawa district.

"Police escorted the man back to a residential building and discovered four others in the midst of chopping up a 400 kilogramme (880 pound) male tiger," the group said.

Freeland director Steven Galster said the group believes some of the animals were "bred in, or laundered through, private zoos in Thailand".

Norasak said he thought the tigers might have been from the wild, but other animals could have been from private zoos.

The arrested men could face four years in jail for the illegal processing of wild and protected animals, he added.

Thailand, a hub of international smuggling, is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations. Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago.

Tiger carcasses found in Bangkok taxidermist’s premises
TRAFFIC 7 Feb 12;

Bangkok, Thailand, 6th February 2012—When Thai police spotted a man with blood-spattered hands walking to a store in a Bangkok suburb they knew something was amiss, but little did they guess that it would lead them to house filled with animal carcasses including two dead Tigers.

Police stopped and questioned the man on Saturday night (4th February), who told them the bloodstains were from animals he had been stuffing.

At the house where he worked, police went on to discover a whole Tiger carcass, another chopped up and placed in three plastic bags and many other animal parts.

Tigers are fully protected in Thailand, and any trade in their parts is prohibited.

Two employers and five workers at the house in Bang Chan were arrested and are being questioned in connection with the Tiger carcasses.

The owner of the house claimed he had permits to carry out taxidermy work for several zoos and shopping outlets, but has yet to produce these documents or explain where the Tigers were acquired.

The discovery was made by the local police and the Natural Resource and Environment Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police.

In a second search of the house today, police found more animals in various stages of processing. These included Gaur, crocodiles, snakes, parrots, egrets, elephant parts and the remains of many other yet-to-be identified species.

All the animals have been confiscated and investigations are underway into where and how the wildlife, especially the Tigers, were obtained and who commissioned the taxidermy.

The find comes less than a month after Thai Customs officials discovered four boxes of Tiger skin, bones and skulls in the post, destined for China.

“The Bang Chan find provides authorities with a unique opportunity to shut down an illegal trade chain. Those arrested should know both the suppliers and the buyers: we hope to see authorities make full use of this situation,” said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia’s Deputy Regional Director Chris R. Shepherd.