Police remove 137 tigers from the temple after discovering the corpses of 40 cubs in a freezer. The temple vet said that animal corpses were frozen as evidence that the animals had died of natural causes and were not for sale on the black market. Police seized various animal skins, ten teeth and hundreds of amulets made from several body parts. The temple was a popular holiday destination.
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Five men, including three monks, have been arrested in connection with the ‘Tiger Temple’ scandal. The charge against them is that of illegal possession of animals and animal abuse.
The suspects were released on bail set at US$ 2,250 per person, pending further investigations. If they are convicted, they face a maximum penalty of four years in prison and/or a fine of ,100.
The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, is a popular tourist destination. For the past few days it has been embroiled in controversy after it was accused of illegal possession of tigers, and selling their skin and other parts on the black market.
On 30 May, Thai officials and staff from the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand and other NGOs arrived at the temple to start removing its collection of adult tigers, thought to number 137.
The monks refused them entry. The next day the group returned with a court order that allowed them to force their way in. Using tranquiliser guns, they sedated and relocated the animals.
On the second day, Thai wildlife officials came upon 40 tiger cub corpses and numerous body parts from other animals preserved in a freezer.
"From what I can see, those parts and newly born tiger bodies look like they are for medical study purposes, as they were kept in proper formaldehyde," said Tuenjai Noochdumrong, director of Thailand's Wildlife Conservation Office.
The temple vet said that animal corpses were frozen as evidence that the animals had died of natural causes and were not for sale on the black market.
However, on Thursday, Thai police stopped a truck as it was leaving the Tiger Temple. Inside they found two complete tiger skins, about 700 amulets made from tiger parts and ten tiger teeth.
Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple was founded in 1994. In 2001 local villagers brought the monks eight tiger cubs so that they could look after them. Eventually, the tigers became the temple’s main with thousands of tourists coming each year to take pictures with the cubs.
Given the press coverage that it has received, the Tiger Temple fired back on Facebook, denying claims that it possessed tiger skin.
"The recent discovery of the tiger skins and necklaces comes as a shock to us as well as the rest of the world. We are disgusted at this discovery and we don't condone this. We are looking forward to the authorities bringing the culprits to justice."
Some 40 million people are victims each year, including about 150,000 Filipinos. Catholics work closely with government agencies. For Mgr Ruperto Cruz Santos, education, outreach, and policy programmes are among their priorities.
The animal is high on the endangered species list due to habitat loss and poaching. One tiger grabbed a woman trying to escape up a tree.
The victims are sold for organs or as sex slaves for militant Islamists. Women from Nepal’s Tamang, Rai Thakuri ethnic groups are particularly at risk because of their "fair and beautiful" skin. The government's work is affected by the problem’s links to organised crime. Various women’s groups organised activities and events to mark the day.