Kanchanaburi Province has long been famed for its housing of seemingly tame tigers at a famous Thai Buddhist temple. This holy ground is quite the tourist trap allowing visitors to pet and walk among grown tigers for a nominal fee. Last Tuesday that all changed.
Authorities armed with tranquilizers and stun-guns raided the temple and began the long process of relocating all resident tigers. Government officials were concerned that the temple was running an illegal wildlife smuggling ring and was using the wildlife sanctuary as a front. There have also been concerns about ongoing animal abuse. Some investigators suspect the tigers were being drugged to make them more docile and accepting of strangers invading their personal space. The WWF and the WCO are concerned that the temple was involved in animal trafficking and wasn’t registering all of the cubs being bred on the premises.
This fear was later confirmed when the raid revealed freezers containing the bodies of unregistered newborn tiger cubs. At least 40 have been uncovered so far and their state of decay suggests some of them have been in cold storage for years. Tiger body parts are an infamous ingredient in Chinese holistic and folk medicine and this stockpile of cubs could be sold illegally for a hefty profit. Monks at the temple deny these allegations but an investigation is surely forthcoming.
This story is both sad and disturbing but there is a small silver lining. Historically Thailand has been infamous for its trafficking in endangered and exotic animals. The fact that authorities are taking this so seriously shows that their government is growing more and more intolerant of this kind of behavior. Hopefully things are getting better.