Tiger temple: Govt removal under secret settlement?

Secret govt settlement with 70 tigers removed & 77 remaining so 100 million a year tourism business can continue, says one source.


Govt begins removing tigers from scandal-tainted temple

Piyarach Chongcharoen

KANCHANABURI - Five tigers were seized late Thursday from the scandal tainted Tiger Temple, the first move by the government to take away big cats from monks facing renewed allegations of wildlife trafficking (see full story here).

Government wildlife officials used tranquiliser guns to sedate and place the tigers from the Tiger Temple [full name: Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno] in two six-wheeled trucks which took them to wildlife conservation centres (wildlife sanctuaries, wildlife reserves) in Ratchaburi province, the Khao Son and Khao Prathub Chang animal reserves.

Thailand-based wildlife activists hailed the move.

300 monks and temple staff at the temple, led by the abbot, blocked a road and prevented government wildlife officials from removing six Asiatic black bears, a protected species list under the 1992 Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act. The temple is alleged to make 100 million baht a year from running an illegal wild animal business. Piyarath.


The move comes after the temple backpedalled on last week's reported agreement to give up custody of the giant cats, which have earned the Tiger Temple an estimated 100 million baht a year in tourism revenue for the past decade.

During the same period, monks there have been accused of speed breeding and selling off tigers illegally.

Moves to remove the tigers gained momentum in 2014 when three of its 147 captive tigers reportedly disappeared.

The results of an investigation published in the National Geographic magazine recently indicate that tigers have been taken illegally to and from the temple since at least 2004.

Buddhist monk blocking road in protest so that 100 million baht a year illegal business can continue at Buddhist temple, preventing protected wildlife species being removed by government and placed in wildlife sanctuary so they can live without being exploited for profit.


Earlier this month, the Tiger Temple foundation sued the government, seeking 147.4 million baht, plus 7.5% annual interest, to cover the costs of caring for the tigers that have made the temple a popular and profitable tourism business for a decade.

The Court of First Instance accepted the case and the trial will begin in February.

Another source said that the temple and the government had reached an agreement (legal settlement).

Under the agreement, 70 tigers could be removed while the remaining 77 would be kept at the temple for tourism purposes so the temple's tourism business can continue to earn money.

The remaining tigers would be placed in a zoo the foundation is building.

However, there has been no disclosure of such an agreement to the public.

The latest count in March 2015 indicated that the temple had 147 tigers, but it is possible that around 30-50 tiger cubs were born and not registered.

Meanwhile, there has been no update from either the temple or the government's wildlife department regarding the missing tigers.


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Writer: Jon Fernquest
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