Wildlife officials crack down on Thailand tiger trade: Three big cats removed from Buddhist temple accused of illegally breeding, trafficking and…

  • The Buddhist temple in western Thailand, which operates as a tourist attraction, has been raided by wildlife officials
  • Three tigers were tranquilized and transported to government sanctuaries in the operation involving 1,000 personnel
  • It has previously been accused of illegally breeding the big cats, trafficking them and drugging them for tourists

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Wildlife officials in Thailand have raided a Buddhist temple and removed some of its 137 tigers following accusations the monks were illegally breeding and trafficking the animals. The director of Thailand’s Wildlife Conservation Office, Teunjai Noochdumrong, said three tigers were tranquilized and transported in an operation involving 1,000 state personnel. The temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, but in recent years it has been investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.

Veterinarians check a tiger after it was tranquilized to be moved from the Tiger Temple today in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand

The tiger was one of three taken from the tourist attraction today amid an investigation into trafficking and animal abuse

One of the tigers is loaded into a cage on a truck after the temple was raided by more than 1,000 wildlife officials

The temple, which the Buddhist monks called a ‘sanctuary’ and which they operated for tourists, has been accused of animal abuse

Although it denies the accusations, some believe the tigers are drugged so they are placid when being petted by tourists

One of the tigers is loaded into a cage while during the raid today, which went ahead after authorities received a court order

The raid today was the latest move by authorities in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control

Wildlife activists have accused the temple’s monks of illegally breeding tigers, while some visitors have said the animals can appear drugged. The temple denies the accusations. Today’s raid was the latest move by authorities in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control. Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, said the team had been able to confiscate the tigers thanks to a warrant obtained a few hours before the operation.

‘We have a court warrant this time, unlike previous times, when we only asked for the temple’s cooperation, which did not work,’ Adisorn told Reuters.

‘International pressure concerning illegal wildlife trafficking is also part of why we’re acting now.’

The animals will be taken to three government animal refuges elsewhere in Thailand. The monks resisted previous efforts to take away the tigers, and impeded the effort again on today morning despite the massive show of force by the authorities. They relented after police obtained a court order. More than 300 officials remained at the temple overnight to ensure the tigers remained safe.

The temple recently made arrangements to operate as a zoo, but the plan fell through when the government determined that the operators failed to secure sufficient resources. Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory. Exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, some of them endangered species, can often be found on sale in markets.

The government introduced new animal welfare laws in 2015 aimed at curbing animal abuse, but activists accuse authorities of not enforcing the legislation properly.

Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory

An animal welfare officers holds one of the tigers’ paws aloft as he checks over the tranquilized big cat

The three tigers removed from the temple will be relocated to government centres across Thailand.

More than 100 still remain at the zoo

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