Tiger temple animals now 'starving'

Tiger temple animals now 'starving'

Hundreds of animals, including a lion, are being underfed at Kanchanaburi's Tiger Temple, according to a recent visitor who posted his concerns on Facebook.

The Tiger Temple in Sai Yok district was once one of Thailand's prime tourist spots but which has seen visitors numbers plummet since a 2016 raid led to the removals of its star attractions -- the tigers.

During its heyday, the temple earned about 100 million baht a year from tourists who had their photos taken up close with the tigers, some of which were led on a walk by the monks outside their enclosures.

But the raid led to the removal of 137 tigers from the temple.

Their removal was the outcome of investigations into allegations of abuse and illegal trafficking of animals by the temple.

The temple remained open but has largely lost its appeal without the tigers.

Recent visitor August Roikaeo said in his Facebook post that other animals continue to live at the temple, but visitors numbers have dwindled.

The loss of income has left the temple struggling to feed its remaining animals, which include a lion, deer, swine, peacocks, wild fowls, cows and buffaloes, Mr August said.

"Many animals are visibly skinny," he said in the Facebook post. "I felt very sorry for them and would like to ask people to help the animals which are being left to starve to death."

The message attracted hundreds of comments, including those from people demanding the authorities step in to help care for the animals.

The temple receives vegetables and food for the animals donated by locals.

The raid on the Tiger Temple was carried out in May 2016 by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).

The suspicious disappearance of three tigers in 2015 and subsequent discoveries of irregularities, including the carcasses of tiger cubs and talismans made of tiger skin and teeth, raised the suspicions which subsequently prompted the raid.

There were also long-held fears that the temple was motivated by profit rather than conservation, with suggestions that the animals were being aggressively bred to attract more visitors.

The rescued tigers were relocated to the DNP's wildlife breeding centres in Ratchaburi.

The Tiger Temple has sheltered animals since 1994, when it took in its first tiger, a wild cub which had lost its mother.

Meanwhile, DNP officials found 33 protected wild animals, including 12 tigers, held in cages allegedly without a permit at a house in Chon Buri's Ban Bung district. An initial check found alleged irregularities in copies of the documents which two men used to claim ownership of the animals.

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