Dead Tiger Cubs Found in Thai Temple, Trafficking, Abuse Suspected
Wildlife authorities in Thailand found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in a Thai Buddhist temple, a site that has been linked to wildlife trafficking and abuse, police said.
According to Reuters, police and officials headed an operation to remove all living tigers from Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple in response to suspected trafficking and animal abuse.
The temple is located in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok and has become a popular tourist destination where visitors take selfies with bottle-fed tiger cubs. But it has been closed to the public since the raid.
The Tiger Temple, officially known as Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, has been under investigation for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and abuse. The raid, which began on Monday, is the most recent move in a long-standing battle since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control.
According to Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, the dead tiger cubs were found inside a freezer in the kitchen area.
"They must be of some value for the temple to keep them," Nuchdamrong told Reuters.
Officials took the carcasses out and lined them up on the floor of the temple. The body of a Binturong, a protected species commonly known as bearcat, was also among the cub carcasses.
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In a statement on their Facebook page, the temple said that wildlife authorities had already been aware of the tiger cub carcasses on the freezer. They said they used to cremate dead tiger cubs, but a vet changed their policy in 2010.
Police officer Bandith Meungsukhum said in a report in BBC that wildlife officials would file new criminal charges after the discovery, adding that the cubs were only about one or two days old when they died.
Officials have already removed 61 live tigers out of the 137 in the temple. The raid is said to continue throughout the week.
Since 2001, authorities have been in a clash with monks in the temple after allegations of wildlife trafficking and abuse had surfaced. However, the monks consistently deny any wrongdoing.
Thailand has been known as a hub for illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, which includes ivory. Other species found in markets are exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, and many of them are endangered.