Five tigers relocated in cover of night
Five of 147 tigers were reportedly relocated from “Tiger Temple” on Thursday night in a secret transport operation by temple and wildlife officials.
Earlier on Thursday officials’ vehicles believed to carry the tigers were seen at Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno in Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok district. The relocation did not occur until night-time when no members of the media were at the temple, a source said yesterday.
The five tigers were shot with a tranquiliser gun before being loaded onto trucks which took them to Khao Pa Son and Khao Prathap Chang wildlife breeding centres in Ratchaburi province as part of a Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation relocation plan, he said.
The source said reporters covering the tiger scandal at the temple were not aware the tigers were being relocated, allegedly as part of an agreement by the department and Phra Wisutthisan Thera, abbot of the temple, requiring the temple to hand over the tigers following the disappearance of three tigers last year.
The department, which left seven tigers under the temporary care of the temple in 2001, and the temple have tried to avoid the media spotlight, the source said.
The number of tigers had risen from seven to 147 as of last year. There are also 30 to 50 unregistered cubs, a possible reason why the relocation of the tigers needs to be kept secret, the source said.
The Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno Foundation, which oversees the tigers, earlier agreed to hand over 70 tigers to the department, provided that it can continue raising 77 tigers at the zoo it is currently constructing, the source added.
The foundation says it has taken the tiger issue to court, petitioning a judge to order the department to pay it more than 147 million baht, with 7.5% yearly interest, for expenses it incurred while caring for the tigers. The court is scheduled to start its hearing next month, the source said.
Department officials declined to comment on the relocation of the tigers.