Big Cats Rescued in Raids on Infamous 'Tiger Temple'
About 130 big cats were being held at the Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Yannasampanno of western Thailand. The temple is a popular tourist spot in Kanchanaburi province, where visitors are allowed to play with tigers and cubs and pose for photos with them.
The temple was in disarray on Tuesday after 33 live tigers were confiscated from the temple by the Thai government. Thailand's Wildlife Conservation Office (WCO) said the temple's 137 tigers posed a danger to visitors and that they were being mistreated.
"When our vet team arrived, there were tigers roaming around everywhere," Wildlife Conservation Office (WCO) director Teunjai Noochdumrong said. "Looks like the temple intentionally let these tigers out, trying to obstruct our work."
Just one day later, the authorities found 40 dead tiger cubs in a freezer alongwith bear carcasses. Also found were deer antlers and the body of a binturong -- a Southeast Asian bearcat.
As part of a 2001 agreement, the temple was allowed to take care of tigers as long as it didn't use them for profit or breed them. The temple used to charge tourists to enter the compound and walk with the big cats.
The temple has long been shrouded in allegations of animal abuse and trafficking. The tigers will be transported to government sanctuaries elsewhere in the country following allegations of mistreatment of the animals.
Government officials plan to clear the temple of all tigers, and will spend the next week removing the remaining dozens of animals.