Temple faces charges after 40 dead tiger cubs found
Kanchanaburi: Wildlife authorities will press charges against the so-called Tiger Temple in Sai Yok district after they found the carcasses of 40 tiger cubs in a freezer and some live animals in the grounds, a senior official says.
The discovery of the dead cubs, six hornbills and a lion came as the authorities continued efforts to relocate the tigers raised at Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua, known as the Tiger Temple.
- Earlier report: Tiger cubs found in temple freezer
The effort to relocate 137 tigers started on Monday evening after the Kanchanaburi Provincial Court approved a warrant allowing the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) to search the temple.
Authorities stormed the kitchen facilities Wednesday after receiving a tip from a temple worker about the secret carcass stash. They also found the body of a Binturong, a protected species commonly known as a bear-cat, and a number of animal organs.
DNP director-general Thanya Netithammakun said the carcasses of the tiger cubs were found in the freezer along with the carcasses of a bear-cat and a squirrel, five antlers, and the internal organs of animals in jars.
He said the authorities took DNA samples from the dead cubs for examination to see if they were related to the 137 tigers. Authorities also found other wild animals in the temple grounds including a lion and six hornbills and had the animals confiscated, he said.
He added the department's legal experts would meet police and press charges against the temple for illegal possession of wild animals and animal carcasses.
Tuanjai Noochdamrong, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office, under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said if the DNA tests confirm the tiger cubs belong to some of the tigers, the temple will have violated an agreement with the department, under which the temple must report all newborn tigers or any deaths.
If the DNA tests show those cubs are not from the temple, the temple must clarify where they were from and what they were for. "At the very least we will charge them with illegal possession of the carcass of the bear-cat we found, which is not on temple's wild animal list," she said.
Mr Thanya said the cub carcasses seem to be old and the temple did not notify the DNP about any newborns. He said he had no idea why the carcasses were stored in the freezer.
However, the director-general said every part of a tiger can be sold and a live cub is estimated to be worth several hundred thousand baht while a fully grown animal can fetch up to one million baht.
Wildlife officials and workers continued for a fifth day Wednesday to round up and remove the 137 tigers from Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua, known as the Tiger Temple. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Authorities removed another 12 tigers Wednesday and took them to Khao Pa Son Wildlife Breeding Centre and Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Breeding Centre in Ratchaburi's Chom Bung district. About 22 others were expected to be moved by the end of the day, Wednesday.
On Monday and Tuesday, 40 out of the 137 tigers were relocated from the temple. Seven were transferred on Monday night while the rest were removed on Tuesday.
Also Wednesday, the World Wildlife Fund praised the department for taking firm action against the temple zoo.
"This week's actions to remove the tigers are long overdue and we encourage the DNP to make the move permanent," said Yowalak Thiarachow, country director, WWF-Thailand. All the tigers are expected to be relocated by tomorrow.