The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation on Friday displayed the carcasses of the tigers which died in its care after they were seized from the Tiger Temple and said they would later be destroyed.
High-level officials of the department showed the carcasses to reporters at Khao Prathab Chang and Khaozon wildlife breeding centres to ease the concern some organs might have been sold after they died. Tiger parts, used in Chinese traditional medicines, are much sought after and traded at high prices.
Kanchana Nitaya, the department's director for wildlife conservation, and Sompote Maneerat, spokesman of the department, brought reporters to the Khao Prathab Chang and Khaozon wildlife breeding centres in Chom Bung district of Ratchaburi to see the carcasses.
At the Khao Prathab Chang breeding centre, the carcasses were kept in 200-litre barrels filled with formalin.
The authorities said the complete carcasses of all dead tigers were kept as proof no parts of them had been missing. But due to their size, they had to be dismembered to fit in the barrels.
"When preserved in formalin, their skins and even bones will no longer be of commercial use. The barrels containing the carcasses will then be buried at least three metres deep. After the examination of all the evidence is finalised, a request for incineration will go to the department," Mr Sompote said.
"It is the best method in accordance with technical principles. No parts of them will be left behind."
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation faced criticism after 86 of 147 tigers seized from the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province had died since they were brought there in May 2016.
Banphote Maleehuan, chief of the Khao Prathab Chang centre, said on Friday that the tigers seized from the Tiger Temple were kept in cages of 40-60 square metres each and there were a pond and enough space for running, lying and feeding in each cage.
The seized tigers started to die the same month they were brought in of canine distemper virus and inbreeding-related laryngeal paralysis, he said.
The illnesses were incurable and the department, together with Mahidol University, had tried their best to take good care them, he said. The Khao Prathab Chang facility received 85 tigers from Tiger Temple, whose full name is Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua, and 54 of them died.
The history of the notorious Kanchanaburi tiger temple dates back to 2001, when forestry officials seized seven tigers and asked Somchai Visetmongkolchai, a veterinarian, to be their custodian. He then asked monks at Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua in Kanchanaburi to help keep them.
The seven animals subsequently bred and their numbers rose to 148 in the following 15 years.
The temple, lacking resources to feed and care for the animals as they grew up, started accepting donations and tourists, who petted and posed with the chained cats, raising criticism about animal mistreatment. Concerns were also raised about their proper care and safety.
Suspicions that something was amiss were confirmed when parts and carcasses of the animals were found with their organs removed or preserved. Since some parts of the animals are used in Chinese traditional medicines and of much market value, they were believed to be part of a wildlife trafficking ring.
The office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) pressured the Thai government to take action.
In 2016, the department took legal action against the temple and seized 147 large cats from it. Most of them are non-native Siberian tigers, which are not suitable for breeding here.