Tiger Temple abbot faces trafficking charges
published : 23 Dec 2016 at 04:12
newspaper section: News
writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
Authorities will file an illegal tiger trade complaint against the abbot of the so-called Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi after tests showed the DNA of six dead cubs did not match any of the 147 tigers found at the temple.
Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation deputy chief, Adisorn Noochdamrong, said department lab tests showed the origin of 15 of 40 cubs was suspicious as their DNA only matched up with one parent at the zoo.
However, the DNA of six did not match up with any of the 147 tigers living at the temple.
"It means these dead cubs were from somewhere else, suggesting temple wrongdoing by way of illegal tiger trading and possession. The abbot is the principal culprit, followed by the temple committee and the Tiger Temple Foundation committee," he said.
The DNA results on the six cubs were significant enough for the department to plan to file a complaint by early next year against the temple's abbot and the two temple committees for involvement in the illegal wildlife trade, Mr Adisorn said.
A search of the temple compound in June uncovered 40 cub carcasses in refrigerators, the carcasses of six hornbills, 27 sheets of processed wood, including teak, two tiger pelts and thousands of talismans made from tiger parts, among others. At least five suspects, including a monk, have already been charged with illegal wildlife possession.
Mr Adisorn said the temple foundation recently asked the department for permission to take possession of 105 tigers it had bought from a soon-to-close zoo in Nakhon Nayok province. However the department was concerned about relocating the tigers to the temple as its zoo does not meet required standards.
He said the welfare of the tigers was of primary concern and he would discuss the issue with the department's legal team. The matter is urgent because the law states all animals must be removed from a zoo before it closes down. The department will find a solution to the problem, Mr Adisorn said.