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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Thai Tiger Temple Monk Caught Fleeing with Skins, Fangs

By AFP

Thai authorities uncovered a trove of animal parts and intercepted a monk trying to leave a controversial "tiger temple" with skins and fangs Thursday, the latest discovery to fuel accusations that the zoo is involved in the illegal wildlife trade.

Dozens of police and park officials have been stationed at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in western Kanchanaburi province since Monday after receiving a court order to remove over 100 adult cats from the complex.

For decades the infamous temple has been a popular stop for tourists who pay a steep fee to pet and be photographed with the predators -- which animal rights groups say are heavily sedated.


Thai wildlife officials load a tiger into a cage on a truck after they removed it from an enclosure after the animal was anaesthetised at the Wat Pha Luang T...
Thai wildlife officials load a tiger into a cage on a truck after they removed it from an enclosure after the animal was anaesthetised at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016 ©Christophe Archambault (AFP/File)

"Today we found tiger skins and amulets in a car which was trying to leave the temple," Adisorn Noochdumrong, the deputy director of Thailand's parks department, told AFP.

He said around 10 tiger fangs were also found in the truck, and that some of the hundreds of amulets contained tiger parts.

In addition to skins that were later found in monks' quarters, officials discovered a living lion, hornbill, sun bear and banteng (an endangered species of wild cattle) inside the temple compound, he said.

They also uncovered around 20 containers of preserved tiger parts holding "both whole bodies and organs to be used for medicines," Adisorn told AFP.

The discovery comes after authorities found dozens of dead tiger cubs inside a freezer at the temple Wednesday.

Animals rights groups and conservationists have long accused the temple of secretly acting as a tiger farm and reaping huge profits from selling animals and tiger parts on the black market for use in Chinese medicine.

A Thai wildlife official speaks with a monk before officials removed tigers from enclosures at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province...
A Thai wildlife official speaks with a monk before officials removed tigers from enclosures at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016 ©Christophe Archambault (AFP/File)

The temple has always denied trafficking allegations and says it provides higher quality care for the animals than official park facilities.

Repeated efforts to shut down the site over the years have been delayed and complicated by the fact that secular Thai authorities are often reluctant to intervene in the affairs of the clergy.

Park authorities said they have removed 84 tigers so far this week and are transferring the animals to nearby breeding centres.

Police said they have not filed any criminal charges yet and are still investigating the temple.

Previous raids of the temple revealed that dozens of hornbills, jackals and Asian bears were also being kept at the sanctuary without proper permits.

Thai wildlife officials use a tunnel of cages to capture a tiger and remove it from an enclosure at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi pro...
Thai wildlife officials use a tunnel of cages to capture a tiger and remove it from an enclosure at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016 ©Christophe Archambault (AFP/File)