Calgary Thai tiger temple defender yanks support as new details surface
‘I now feel deceived by someone I trusted,’ Gary Agnew says
WARNING: This story contains a disturbing image.
A vocal defender of the Thailand tiger temple says he is pulling his support after new information make the allegations he once dismissed, far more likely.
The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok came under fire early this week as local wildlife authorities discovered 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer.
- Tiger skins, teeth seized in Thailand temple investigation
- 40 dead tiger cubs found in Thai temple freezer
Live animals were removed in response to international pressure over suspected trafficking and abuse.
Calgarian Gary Agnew came to the defence of the temple, questioning the motives of the Department of National Parks (DNP) and saying the dead cubs were being stored at the temple for research on the direction of the temple's former vet.
Agnew developed an affinity for tigers when he sat on the Calgary Zoo's board of directors for nine years. He visited the temple often to conduct research.
Agnew also said the DNP was aware of the dead cubs, something the department denied.
He said Wednesday, in his frequent trips to the temple, he had not observed behaviour to support the allegations the temple is currently facing.
'Revealed our darkest fears'
"I must confess that the actions of a temple staff member and that of several monks this week revealed our darkest fears," Agnew said in the post.
"In fact, they solidified the legitimacy of some of the rumours and allegations that there were indeed inappropriate actions by the monks and other leaders of the temple."
Thai police stopped a truck Thursday carrying two tiger skins and other animal parts as it was leaving a Buddhist temple where monks have been accused of being involved in illegal wildlife trafficking, a police officer said.
Two men in the truck were arrested and charged with possession of illegal wildlife, said police Col. Bandith Meungsukhum. He said a monk travelling with them will be arrested once he is defrocked.
"For me, being a strong proponent of the Tiger temple this discovery is not only humbling, but disillusioning," Agnew wrote.
'I now feel deceived'
"I have zero tolerance for animal abuse, and faced with irrefutable indicators of inappropriate behavior, I now feel deceived by someone I trusted and believed in as a spiritual leader," he said of the Abbott, the temple's spiritual leader.
An adult tiger skin can fetch anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000, according to Steve Galster, the director of Freeland, an organization that fights wildlife trafficking.
Authorities this week have been transferring the temple's 137 tigers to animal shelters after obtaining a court order.
The temple is a popular tourist attraction that charged admission for visitors to take photos with tigers.
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With files from Thomson Reuters, Associated Press and CBC's Monty Kruger