Bangkok, June 1 (IANS) More than 40 dead tiger cubs and a bear were found in the freezer of Thailand’s Tiger Temple, which is being probed for wildlife trafficking, officials said on Wednesday.
The grisly discovery at the Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province on Wednesday morning came after a raid launched on Monday for relocation of 137 adult tigers of the temple by at least 1,000 personnel.
The raid was launched following complaints that monks at the remote forest temple in Thailand were mistreating and trafficking the animals. But the monks have denied the allegations.
The bodies of the tiger cubs were discovered by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation teams on Wednesday together with the carcasses of other protected species, EFE news reported.
They were stored in the freezer where the temple kept the food for tigers, said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the wildlife department, who claimed the temple had never registered the dead cubs.
He believed the carcasses must be of some value for the temple to have kept them.
The tiny tiger cubs found after authorities stormed the temple’s secret stash were aged from birth to one week old.
Observers said on Twitter that they appeared to have been killed recently.
The raid that began on May 30 is the latest move in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control, which was being widely obstructed by the monks.
The Buddhist temple in the west of Bangkok had become a tourist destination where visitors snapped selfies with bottle-fed cubs.
The temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, but in recent years it was investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.
Some animal rights organisations have claimed the tigers appear sedated when interacting with tourists and have accused the temple of being a facade to cover illegal animal trafficking.
The temple has denied claims that the monks carry out irresponsible breeding programmes, traffic endangered species and sell the animals.
Animal rights activists were long campaigning against the temple’s illegal possession of the big cats, describing it as “hell for animals” and called on tourists to stop visiting animal attractions at home and abroad.
The rescued tigers, some of them autochthonous to Thailand, will be taken to different specialised centres in the country.
The temple in Kanchanaburi has been closed to the public since the raid.