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Monks in Infamous Thai Temple Caught ‘Smuggling’ Tiger Parts

Jun 03, 2016 06:43 AM EDT
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Wildlife Authorities Raid Thailand's Controversial 'Tiger Temple'
A Thai DNP veterinarian officer holds the head of a sedated tiger at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple on June 1, 2016 in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand. Wildlife authorities in Thailand raided a Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province where 137 tigers were kept, following accusations the monks were illegally breeding and trafficking endangered animals. Forty of the 137 tigers were rescued by Tuesday from the country's infamous 'Tiger Temple' despite opposition from the temple authorities.
(Photo : Dario Pignatelli / Stringer / Getty Images)

A Buddhist monk was detained by Thai authorities after being caught smuggling tiger parts from the so-called Tiger Temple.

Operators of the Tiger Temple, formally known as the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in Kanchanaburi province, has long been accused of wildlife trafficking and animal abuse, to which they consistently deny any wrongdoing.

But on Thursday, Thai police has intercepted a monk and two other men leaving the temple in Western Thailand on board a pick-up truck.

Among those confiscated by the authorities were two full-length tiger skins, around 700 charms made of tiger parts, and 10 tiger fangs.

"This confiscation shows hat the temple is likely involved in illegal tiger trade. They are clearly violating the law in selling, distributing of transferring the protected animals or their parts," Teunchai Noochdumrong, director of the wildlife conservation office, told BBC.

According to a report from NBC News, investigators also found 20 glass jars containing baby tigers and tiger organs in the temple "laboratory," which reinforces accusations that operators of the temple are involved in making folk medicine.

Tiger parts are known to be used in traditional Chinese medicine, which has grown into a multi-million dollar business that is said to be the reason behind depleting tiger population in Asia.

The temple located west of Bangkok has been a popular tourist destination and tiger sanctuary, where visitors pose for photos with the animals. But it was recently tied to mounting allegations of animal abuse and illicit wildlife trafficking.

Animal activists and former temple workers also reported animal abuse and said that the tigers were being confined in small concrete cages.

On Monday, authorities raided the temple and confiscated 137 living tigers, which were taken to a government wildlife sanctuary.

On Wednesday, wildlife authorities found 40 dead tiger cubs in the freezer inside the temple. It is suspected that the frozen carcasses were being preserved for the medicines.

DNA of the tiger cub carcasses will be tested to see if they are related to the other tigers at the site.

Thai wildlife officials said they will press charges against the temple.

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