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Tiger Temple: Animal trafficking report leads to criminal defamation charges

National Geographic magazine & the NGO Cee4life have joined hands to present evidence that the so-called Tiger Temple is a a front for illegal tiger smuggling. (Source: Cee4life report)

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Tiger Temple is front for 100 million baht a year illegal tourism business, National Geographic reports, only to be hit with criminal defamation suit by monk giving the interview.


Tiger Temple: Commercial animal trafficking & National Geographic


A new report by the National Geographic magazine alleging that the famous "Tiger Temple" in Kanchanaburi has been involved in the illegal wildlife trade for more than a decade is expected to increase pressure on Thai authorities to intervene (read report here).

Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno in Sai Yok district of Kanchanaburi has been the focus of inquiries since three of its 147 captive tigers reportedly disappeared in late 2014.

However, police investigations have made little progress and wildlife protection officials have conceded that the case is "very sensitive".

In a long drawn out battle, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation finally confiscates and removes six Asiatic black bears, from the Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, animals are on the protected species list under the 1992 Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act. About 300 monks and staff at the temple, led by the abbot, had blocked a road to prevent officials from taking away the bears, prompting the ‘rescue team’ to use a crane to hoist the bear cages over a wall. The department also tried to remove some of the 146 tigers, which are a tourist attraction at the temple. (Source: Piyarath)


The Tiger Temple is estimated to generate about 100 million baht a year from tourists who visit by the busload to pet and feed tiger cubs, walk tigers on leashes and take selfies with the animals, according to National Geographic magazine, which this week released details of the new trafficking allegations.

All of the tigers at the temple are supposed to have microchips implanted in them.

However, it was revealed last year that the microchips had been cut out of the three adult males that disappeared in December 2014.

The temple's longtime veterinarian, Somchai Visasmongkolchai, made the revelation after resigning his post and turning over the microchips to officials of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Head monk of tiger temple Phusit Khantidharo plays with one of the tigers in 2004 before the controversy arose. AFP PHOTO/ Saeed KHAN


Department officials conducted follow up inspections at the temple in April last year and confirmed that the tigers were missing. They also discovered that 13 other tigers lacked microchips and found the carcass of a tiger in a freezer. 

Now the Australian activist group Cee4life (Conservation and Environmental Education for Life) says it has new information indicating that tigers have been taken illegally to and from the temple since at least 2004.

The group's "Tiger Temple Report" was given simultaneously to Thai officials and National Geographic last month and was released publicly this week (read report here).

Monk who was attacked by tiger while walking it in 2015 (Source: Matichon).


"The information presented in this report provides undisputable evidence that the Tiger Temple is a commercial breeding and illegal international wildlife trading venue," said the report.

The report also alleges that "an unprecedented number of deaths of tigers (and other protected species housed within the monastery grounds) has occurred and severe abuse and neglect have been reported and documented.


"Yet the Tiger Temple continues to operate with immunity, arguably protected because it is a Buddhist monastery," the report said.

The report includes what the group says are veterinary records from 1999 and 2000 indicating that four of the temple's original tigers were "wild caught" and a 2004 document stating that a female tiger named Nanfa had been "imported from Laos".


A 2005 contract signed by the temple's abbot and provided to National Geographic details the swap of a male from the temple with a female from a commercial tiger breeding operation in Laos.

An audiotape acquired from an unnamed temple adviser records a conversation between the abbot and Mr Somchai, the former veterinarian, about the three missing tigers.

Allegations of tiger smuggling at the temple were first made in 2008, when National Geographic reported on a study by the British wildlife group Care for the Wild. Around the same time, a group known as the International Tiger Coalition said the temple had made "no contribution whatsoever to wild tiger conservation".

Sybelle Foxcroft, an Australian wildlife management expert, provided much of the impetus for the latest report by Cee4life. She first visited the temple in 2007 to study captive-tiger management for her master's degree thesis, and was able to take photographs and shoot video of the activities there.


While staying at the temple, she witnessed the abduction of two four-month-old tiger cubs, and began to notice a pattern involving tigers being removed from the temple and new ones being brought in.

She observed monks carrying walkie-talkies while these operations took place.

Since 2008, she said, "between six and 20 tiger cubs were needed every three months for tourists to cuddle".

When they get older, "they become too dangerous".


The only way to meet this demand, she explained, was "speed breeding": removing newborn cubs from their mothers.

That puts females in heat again, and they can bear at least two litters a year — instead of one litter about every two years, as in the wild.

Foxcroft has compiled a list that identifies 281 tigers that passed through the temple from 1999 to 2015.

She said the difference between 281 and the 147 tigers known to be at the temple is too great to be accounted for by deaths alone. Tigers in captivity normally live from 16 to 22 years.

"So if you do the math," she told National Geographic, "where are all those tigers?"


Meanwhile, the Tiger Temple has been split into three separate entities: the monastery, a corporation that will handle a new tiger enterprise, and a foundation.

Former Kanchanaburi police colonel Supitpong Pakjarung, now vice-president of the foundation, told National Geographic that a new safari-style tiger sanctuary was being planned.

Another area would allow hands-on contact with tigers, and the cats would be allowed to breed freely.

In December the foundation submitted an application for a zoo licence.


The Department of National Parks has been trying to confiscate the temple's 147 tigers since April 2015, on grounds that they are state property, which makes it illegal to earn tourist money from them.

Removing animals from a temple was difficult, and the impact on local employment was also a consideration, so it's said to be a very sensitive issue.

Last week, the magazine reported, department officials were prevented from removing the first batch of tigers, and two uniformed men now guard the temple's front gate.

A court order will be sought, if necessary and arrangements for the tigers to be distributed among nine government wildlife facilities made.

As for the zoo licence,  "If we have evidence that they're involved with illegal wildlife traffic, we will not grant the license," says Adisorn Nuchdumrong, the National park department's deputy director-general.


The monk at the tiger temple who was interviewed by National Geographic, named Jakkrit Apisuthipangsakul, will file criminal defamation charges against National Geographic magazine this week, it is reported.

The tiger temple concedes that it breaks the law by keeping tigers at the temple but takes issue with one of the facts alleged by the report, namely that the temple broke the law by exchanging money with a commercial tiger breeder in Laos in 2004. The temple claims that the tiger swap did take place but that no money changed hands in the swap.

Only cross-border commerce in live tigers is outlawed under CITES, an international treaty on wild animals to which Thailand is a signatory (Read full article here).

It is not clear whether cross-border swapping of tigers to be used in a 100 million baht a year tourism business would be considered "cross-border commerce".





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abbot (noun): the head monk at a temple - เจ้าอาวาส

abduction : taking somebody away illegally, especially using force - การลักพาตัว

abuse (noun): cruel, violent or unfair treatment, especially of someone who does not have the power to prevent it - การข่มเหง, การปฏิบัติไม่ดีต่อ

according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน

accounted for : all the things or people who should be there are now there -

acquire : to get; to obtain - ได้มาซึ่ง

activist : someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change, especially someone who is a member of an organisation - นักกิจกรรม

activity (noun): a thing that you do for work, interest or pleasure, or in order to achieve a particular aim - กิจกรรม

adviser (noun): a person who gives advice, especially somebody who knows a lot about a particular subject - ที่ปรึกษา

allegations (noun): accusations - ข้อกล่าวหา

allege : to say that something is true or that someone has done something wrong, even though this has not been proved - อ้าง, กล่าวหา

arguably : seems to be..., there are good reasons or evidence to show that it is .... -

at least : the smallest amount possible, could be more than this - อย่างน้อย

authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

batch : a group - กลุ่ม

bear (a child) : to give birth to a child - ให้กำเนิด, คลอดลูก

breed (past form: bred) : to keep animals or plants in order to produce young ones in a controlled way - ผสมพันธุ์

breeding : the producing of young animals, plants, etc - การผสมพันธุ์สัตว์เพื่อขยายพันธุ์

busload : one bus full of people riding in the bus to some place (such as tourists riding to a tourist destination) -

captive : kept in a place without being allowed to leave - ไม่สามารถหนีได้

captivity : the state of being kept in a confined space; the state of being kept as a prisoner - การถูกกักขัง, การถูกจองจำ

carcass : the body of a dead animal - ซาก

case : a matter that is being officially investigated, especially by the police - คดี

coalition : the union of different political parties or groups for a particular purpose, usually for a limited time - การร่วมกัน,การร่วมมือกัน,สัมพันธมิตร

colonel : an officer of high rank in the army, the marines, or the air force - พันเอก

commercial : for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า

compile : to collect information from different places and arrange it in a book, report or list - รวบรวม

conceded : admitted unwillingly that something is true - ยอมรับ

conduct : to carry out — - ดำเนิน

confirm (verb): to state or show that something is definitely true or correct, especially by providing evidence - ยืนยัน

confiscate : to take away - ยึด

conservation (noun): the protection of plants and animals, natural areas, and interesting and important structures and buildings, especially from the damaging effects of human activity - การอนุรักษ์ธรรมชาติ, การป้องกันความสูญเสีย, การสงวนไว้

contact : to touch - สัมผัส

contract : an official written agreement - สัญญา

contribution : something that you do that helps to achieve something or to make it successful - ผลงาน,การช่วยเหลือ

conversation (noun): when two or more people are talking about something - การสนทนา, การพูดคุย

corporation : a large business company - บริษัท

cub : a young bear, lion, fox, etc - ลูกของสัตว์

cuddle : to hold somebody/something close in your arms to show love or affection - กอดด้วยความรักใคร่

dangerous (adj.): likely to injure or harm somebody, or to damage or destroy something - อันตราย

decade : a period of ten years - ทศวรรษ

demand (noun): the need and desire of people to buy goods - อุปสงค์

detail (noun): the small facts or features of something - รายละเอียด, ส่วนเล็กๆ น้อยๆ, ส่วนย่อย

detail : to give a list of facts or all the available information about something - อธิบายโดยละเอียด, ชี้แจงรายละเอียด

difference : the way in which two things are not the same - ความแตกต่าง

disappear : to move something or someone somewhere where they can no longer be seen - หายไป, สาบสูญ, สูญหาย

discover : to find somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before - ค้นพบ

document : to record the details of something - บันทึกข้อมูล

employment (noun): when a person has work that earns them money - การจ้างงาน, การงาน

enterprise : an organisation, especially a business - กิจการ, บริษัท,อุตสาหกิจ,วิสาหกิจ

entity (noun): something which exists apart from other things, having its own independent existence - บุคคล คณะบุคคล บริษัท องค์กร

environmental (adj.): related to the natural world including plants and animals, land, water, air, especially as it is affected by human activities - สิ่งแวดล้อม

estimated : thought to be a particular amount, size, etc. based on a guess or the best information available - ประมาณการ

female : being a woman or a girl - สตรี, ผู้หญิง, เพศหญิ

focus : to give attention, effort, etc. to one particular subject, situation or person rather than another - เพ่งความสนใจ

follow up (verb): to find out more about something that somebody has told you or suggested to you - ติดตามผลของ

former : of or in an earlier time; before the present time or in the past - อดีต, แต่ก่อน

foundation : an organisation that provides money for things such as medical research or for a charity - มูลนิธิ

generate : to produce - ผลิต, ก่อให้เกิด

grounds : an area of land around a building or set of buildings - บริเวณ, สถานที่

guard : to watch a place carefully to protect someone from attack, to prevent something from being stolen, or to prevent someone from escaping - เฝ้ายาม, ดูแล, รักษาความปลอดภัย

handle : to be able deal with a situation - ควบคุมได้, เอาอยู่, จัดการได้

hands-on : doing something rather than just talking about it or learning about it -

house : to be the place where something is kept, or where an activity is carried out - บรรจุ

identify : to specify who someone is - ระบุชื่อ

illegal : against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย

illegally : in a way that is against the law - อย่างผิดกฎหมาย

immunity : a situation where someone cannot be taken to court and punished for breaking the law - ได้รับความคุ้มครอง

implant : putting something (usually something artificial) into a part of the body for medical purposes, usually by means of an operation - การปลูกฝัง, การสอด, การใส่

import : to buy or bring in products from another country - นำเข้า

in heat : the period when a female animal is ready to become pregnant - ช่วงติดสัด

indicate : to show that something is true, exists or will happen - แสดง, ทำให้รู้

inquiry : an official examination of a problem, crime,  accident, etc. in order to get information or the truth - การไต่สวนหาข้อเท็จจริง การไต่สวน

inspection : an official process of checking that things are in the correct condition or that people are doing what they should - การตรวจสอบตรวจตรา

international : connected with or involving two or more countries - นานาชาติ, สากล, ระหว่างประเทศ

intervene : to become involved in a situation in order to try to stop or change it - แทรกแซง

investigation : the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened - การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง

involve (verb): to be an important or necessary part or result of something - เกี่ยวพัน, เกี่ยวข้อง, พัวพัน

involved (verb): taking part or having a role in something - เกี่ยวข้อง, มีบทบาท

known as (verb): has the name .... -

lack (verb): to not have something - ขาด

latest (adj): newest; most recent - ] ล่าสุด, See also: ทันสมัยที่สุด, เกิดหลังสุด

leash : a rope or chord that goes around a dogs neck and held by a person to control the dog - เชือกจูงสุนัข, สายรั้ง

licence : an official document that gives someone permission to do or use something - ใบอนุญาต

litter : a group of baby animals that a mother animal just gave birth to -

local : in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น

magazine : a publication that comes out every week or month that includes articles on topics such as politics, economics and other things of interest - นิตยสาร,หนังสือรายเดือน, หนังสือรายสัปดาห์,

male : being a man or a boy - ผู้ชาย

master's degree : a further university degree that you study for after a first degree - ระดับปริญญาโท

microchip (noun): a very small piece of a material that is a semiconductor, used to carry a complicated electronic circuit - ชิ้นซิลิคอนขนาดเล็กที่เก็บแผงวงจรไฟฟ้า, ไมโครชิป, แผ่นชิป

missing (adj): lost; not able to find someone/something; not in the usual place because it has been removed or lost - ซึ่งหายไป

missing : not present, but not known to have been harmed or killed - หายไป, สูญหาย

monastery : a building or series of buildings in which monks live, worship and work together - วัด, ที่อยู่อาศัยของพร

national park (noun): a park run by the government of a country - สวนสาธารณะแห่งชาติ, อุทยานแห่งชาติ

neglect : to give not enough care or attention to people or things that are your responsibility - ละเลย

newborn : recently born - แรกเกิด

normally : usually; in normal circumstances - โดยปกติ, ตามปกติ

notice : to see or hear somebody/something; to become aware of somebody/something - สังเกต

observe : to watch or study someone or something with care - สังเกตการณ์

occurred (verb): happened - เกิดขึ้น

officials : people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

operation : a business activity - การดำเนินการทางธุรกิจ

operation : a planned activity involving a lot of people, especially soldiers or police officers - การปฏิบัติการ

original : the first of something - เดิม, แบบฉบับ

passed through : stayed for a time at a place and then moved on to a new place -

pattern : a series of actions or events that together show how things normally happen or are done - แบบฉบับ, แบบแผน

post : a job/position in a company or organisation - ตำแหน่งการงาน

pressure : to try to make someone do something by forcing, threatening, or persuading them in a determined way - กดดัน

prevent (verb): to stop somebody from doing something; to stop something from happening - ขัดขวาง, ป้องกัน, กัน, กีดขวาง

progress : the process of developing or of getting nearer to achieving or completing something - ความคืบหน้า

protect : to make sure that somebody/something is not harmed, injured, damaged, etc - ป้องกัน,อารักขา,คุ้มกัน

protected species : an animal or plant protected by law, making it illegal to to kill or harm it -

protection : the act of protecting somebody/something; the state of being protected - การอารักขา, การปกป้อง

publicly : intending to be seen or heard by people in general - อย่างเปิดเผย

record : a written account of something that is kept so that it can be looked at and used in the future - การบันทึก, รายงาน

release : making known to the public - การเปิดเผย, การปล่อย

release : the act of making something available to the public - การนำออกแสดง, การออกวางจำหน่าย

remove (verb): to take something away - เอาออก

remove (verb): to take something away - เอาออกจาก

reportedly : as reported (often used for showing that you are not certain that something you are reporting is true) - ตามที่รายงาน

resign : to leave a job permanently - ลาออกจากตำแหน่ง

revealed : made known or showed somthing that was surprising or that was previously secret - เปิดเผย

revelation : a surprising piece of information - การเปิดเผย

safari (noun): a trip to see or hunt wild animals, especially in east or southern Africa - การเดินทางไกลเพื่อล่าสัตว์ ท่องเที่ยว ค้นหาทางวิทยาศาสตร์

sanctuary : a place where birds or animals can live and be protected, especially from hunters or dangerous conditions - เขตสงวนพันธุ์สัตว์ป่า

selfie (noun): a photo you take of yourself or of yourself with someone else -

sensitive : needed to be dealt with very carefully to not cause anger or offence - ที่ละเอียดอ่อน

separate : to keep or put apart - แยก

severe : very serious and worrying - ที่รุนแรง ที่น่าเป็นห่วง

shoot : an occasion when somebody takes professional photographs for a particular purpose or makes a film/movie - การถ่ายภาพ

sign : sign agreement, put your signature on an agreement; agree to do something in exchange for something such as money - เซ็นสัญญา

simultaneously : happening at the same time - ในเวลาเดียวกัน,ที่พร้อมกัน

smuggling : secretly and illegally taking goods or people into or out of a country - ลักลอบขนสินค้าหรือคนหรือสัตว์เข้าและออกจากประเทศอย่างผิดกฎหมาย

study : a project that looks at some subject in great detail and produces a report to share the information - งานวิจัย

submitted : formally given to someone so they can make a decision about it - ยื่นเอกสารเพื่อการพิจารณา

supposed to : expected or required to be; should be - ควรจะ, ควรจะเป็น

swap : to exchange something for something else - แลกเปลี่ยน

trade : the buying and selling of goods and services - การค้าขาย

trafficking : dealing in illegal goods, like drugs, weapons or in illegally moving humans or animals from one place to another - การค้าสิ่งที่ผิดกฎหมาย

undisputable : certain; certainly true; for sure; cannot argue with -

uniform : the special set of clothes worn by all members of an organisation or a group at work, or by children at school - เครื่องแบบ

unprecedented : never having happened before - ที่ไม่เคยเกิดขึ้นมาก่อน

venue : the place where an activity or event happens - สถานที่

veterinarian : a person with a medical degree trained to take care of the health of animals - สัตวแพทย์

veterinary : relating to the care of animals that are ill or injured - เกี่ยวกับสัตวแพทยศาสตร์

walkie-talky : a small two-way handheld radio - เครื่องรับส่งวิทยุมือถือ, เครื่องส่งและเครื่องรับวิทยุในเครื่องเดียวกันที่แบกหรือถือได้โดยคนเพียงคนเดียว

wild (adj): growing in the forest or other natural place; not planted, grown or raised by humans - ไม่เชื่อง

wildlife : animals, birds, insects, etc. that are wild and live in a natural environment - สัตว์ป่า

witness : a person who sees something happen - ผู้ที่เห็นเหตุการณ์

zoo (noun): a place where many kinds of wild animals are kept for the public to see and where they are studied, bred and protected - สวนสัตว์


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