Thai Officials Raid Popular Tourist Attraction ‘Tiger Temple’ to Remove Tigers After Abuse Accusations

By Denisse Moreno, Epoch Times
May 31, 2016 12:14 pm Last Updated: May 31, 2016 12:14 pm

Wildlife officials in Thailand have started removing some of the 137 tigers at a Buddhist temple after monks were accused of illicit acts.

Monks at the Tiger Temple in the Kachanburi province, a popular tourist destination, were allegedly involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the exotic animals.

The temple has also faced criticism because the tigers appear to be drugged while tourists take selfies with them and bottle-feed the animals.

A foreign tourist poses for a photo with a tiger at Tiger buddhist temple in Karnchanaburi province, western Thailand on April 24, 2012.  Thailand is one of just 13 countries hosting fragile tiger populations and is a hub of international smuggling. Worldwide, numbers are estimated to have fallen to only 3,200 tigers from approximately 100,000 a century ago. AFP PHOTO/PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL        (Photo credit should read PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP/Getty Images)
A foreign tourist poses for a photo with a tiger at Tiger buddhist temple in Karnchanaburi province, western Thailand on April 24, 2012. (Pornchai Kittiwonsakul/AFP/Getty Images)

“Many people are asking why confiscate the tigers? We ask, Should the temple be allowed to continue abusing the tigers? Using them as ‘cash cows’ whether that be through photos with tourists or the buttering of them to sell their body,” said the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT).

“The answer in no, we fully support the Thai authorities in upholding the law and saving the tigers.”

Tiger Temple officials deny the accusations.

“If there’s any illegal trading or smuggling, there would have been … evidence,” said Supitpong Pakdijarung, managing director of the Tiger Temple Co., according to NBC.

“It has been more than a year and the case hasn’t gone anywhere.”

About 1,000 state personnel are expected to continue carrying out the operation for a week. Veterinarians and staffers from across the country volunteered to transfer the animals to two government animal centers elsewhere in Thailand.

As of Monday night at 8:00 p.m. local time, a total of 7 tigers were transferred, according to WFFT. The organization said some tigers had been released by temple staff and were on the loose. The animals were later caught and moved out of the temple, but it caused a delay in the operation.

Thai wildlife officials load a tiger into a cage on a truck after they removed it from an enclosure after the tiger was anaesthetised at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016. Thai wildlife officials armed with a court order on May 30 resumed the treacherous process of moving tigers from a controversial temple which draws tourists as a petting zoo, but stands accused of selling off the big cats for slaughter. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT        (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai wildlife officials load a tiger into a cage on a truck after they removed it from an enclosure after the tiger was anaesthetised at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016. (Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images)

On May 31, teams stopped rounding up tigers late in the afternoon because it was too hot to sedate the animals. According to Edwin Wiek from WFFT, 20 tigers had been removed from the temple.

A group of almost a dozen NGO’s from Thailand and authorities will coordinate to decide what the next step for the tigers will be, says WFFT.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.