The popular but controversial Tiger Temple in Thailand aka Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua was founded in 1994 and sells itself as a Buddhist monastery. Known to be a tourist attraction, the temple offers visitors the chance to pose with tigers for photos or play with tiger cubs.
The Tiger Temple calls itself an “animal sanctuary” but alas, allegations of wildlife trafficking and animal abuse has been brewing.
On Monday (30th May 2016), the Thai authorities seized at least 52 tigers from the temple, vowing to confiscate scores more in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.
As it stands, there are still 85 tigers left at the temple.
In 2001, the temple struck a deal with the Wildlife Conservation Office (WCO) that allowed them to take care of the tigers, but on a few conditions – as long as it didn’t use them for profit or breed them. Unfortunately, not only did the temple allow the animals to breed freely, it also charged charged tourists to enter the compound and “mingle” with the tigers.
On top of that, animal-welfare activists have long accused the temple of various things including animal abuse, trafficking, and illegal breeding. Some visitors have even said that the tigers appeared drugged. The temple has denied these allegations.
CNN quoted Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Temple Foundation vice president Suthipong Pakcharoong as saying, “There is nothing illegal and dangerous at all. If they do like this, it would affect the tourism industry.”
In a separate report from Reuters, wildlife authorities also found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer at the Tiger Temple’s kitchen area. Body parts from other animals were also found in a freezer. In speaking about the gruesome find, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks said, “They must be of some value for the temple to keep them. But for what is beyond me.”
Upon confiscation of the tigers, the Thai authorities will then work on a mission to relocate the tigers to nearby animal refuges with the help of over 2,000 personnel including veterinarians, WCO civil servants, provisional police, and local military.