Tigers seized from Thai temple in wildlife trafficking bust

Wildlife authorities in Thailand on Monday raided a Buddhist temple where tigers are kept, taking away three of the animals and vowing to confiscate scores more in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.

Buddhist temple and tourist attraction accused of ties to wildlife trafficking

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

The Tiger Temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary.

Recently, amid a global effort to curb the trafficking of wildlife, the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Temple, or Tiger Temple, has come under fire for alleged ties to animal abuse and contributing to the illegal trade in tigers. On Monday, three of the popular attraction's big cats were removed by Thai authorities.

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

The temple has more than 100 tigers.

Located in Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, the Buddhist temple has become a tourist destination where visitors can bottle-feed the cubs. Wildlife activists have accused the temple's monks of illegally breeding their tigers, and some visitors report that the animals can appear drugged. The temple denies these accusations. 

This woman was photographed there in February.

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

Tranquillizer guns were used to sedate three tigers on Monday.

The big cats were transported to a government-run facility. 

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

The temple has been in conflict with authorities since 2001.

Monday's raid was the latest move to bring the tigers under state control and officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said they planned to remove more tigers on Tuesday. In January and February, wildlife officials were able to remove 10 tigers. Prior attempts to inspect the tigers have largely been blocked by the temple's leaders. 

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

International pressure has spurred action over trafficking. 

Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director general of the Department of National Parks, said a team had been able to confiscate the tigers thanks to a warrant obtained a few hours before the operation.

(Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters)

The tigers are headed to a state-owned sanctuary.

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.

The government introduced new animal welfare laws last year but activists accuse authorities of not enforcing the legislation properly. In 2015, when this photo was taken, Thai conservation officers checked 143 Bengal tigers living at the temple and found them to be in good health.

(Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)


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