Thailand’s wildlife authorities found 40 dead tiger cubs in a freezer at a Buddhist temple west of Bangkok Wednesday. The so-called tiger temple was being raided to remove live animals after international pressure over wildlife trafficking mounted.
Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, the country’s infamous tiger temple is situated in the Kanchanaburi province and operates as an admission-charging zoo. There have been accusations in the past that monks were illegally breeding and trafficking endangered animals within the premises.
Anusorn Noochdumrong, an official from the Department of National Parks, said the cubs were found in a freezer where the temple staff kept food and were now being taken away for DNA analysis, the Associated Press reported. “They must be of some value for the temple to keep them,” he said. “But for what is beyond me,” Reuters quoted the official as saying.
The department has been overseeing the transfer of the temple's 137 tigers to shelters, with 60 having been tranquilized and removed.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that a three-year investigation into the treatment of tigers at this facility found that they are confined in pairs to barren, cement cells for up to 20 hours a day. Care for the Wild International that conducted the investigation added that their living quarters offered no enrichment.
The monks resisted previous efforts to take away the tigers, but after the police obtained a court order Monday, they gave in.
Al Jazeera quoted the director of Thailand's Wildlife Conservation Office, Teunjai Noochdumrong saying, “There was some resistance from the community, they didn't understand why we were taking them (the tigers) from the temple when they look so peaceful and fine at the temple”
In 2015, the Thai government introduced new animal welfare laws aimed at curbing animal abuse. However, activists have reportedly accused authorities of not enforcing the legislation.