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May 31, 2016

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Thai wildlife authorities seize tigers from temple

WILDLIFE authorities in Thailand yesterday raided a Buddhist temple where tigers are kept, taking away three of the animals and vowing to confiscate more in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.

The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi Province west of Bangkok has more than 100 tigers and has become a tourist destination where visitors take selfies with tigers and bottle-feed their cubs.

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. Wildlife activists have accused the temple’s monks of illegally breeding tigers, while some visitors have said the animals appear drugged. The temple denies the accusations.

The raid yesterday 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 said. “International pressure concerning illegal wildlife trafficking is also part of why we’re acting now.”

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said they planned to confiscate and remove more tigers from the temple today. Previous attempts to inspect the tigers have largely been blocked by the temple’s abbots but in January and February wildlife officials removed 10 of the tigers.


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