The police was raiding the temple, which has been accused of wildlife trafficking and animal abuse. Dozens of living tigers have already been removed, out of 137 at the temple. More than 1000 policemen have been deployed in the operation.
The director of Thailand’s Wildlife Conservation Office, Teunjai Noochdumrong, said 40 tigers were tranquilized and removed in two days. They are being taken to government animal shelters elsewhere in the country.
She said they hope to move 20 tigers a day, or more if the weather is cool.
The authorities have been in conflict with monks at the temple for more than 15 years now over the keeping of live tigers in the temple premises. The monks deny any wrongdoings. BBC reported that the majority of the tigers are Bengal tigers, with others being hybrid breeds. There are also jackals, hornbills and Asian bears being kept in the sanctuary without the necessary permits.
Visitors are charged 600 Thai Baht ($16, £11) for entry into the temple, with additional costs to pet or feed the tigers. And thousands of people flock to it every year to have their pictures taken with the animals.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the temple said the mortality rate for tiger cubs at the temple was “comparatively low” and that it used to cremate dead cubs but a vet changed the policy in 2010 “probably to keep as proof against the allegations of selling cubs”. Some workers and volunteers said the bodies were not recent and some of them have been decayed after several years in the freezer.
But the World Wildlife Fund welcomed the news and called on the Thai government to prohibit the temple from keeping tigers in future.
Since 2001, authorities have been locked in a battle with the monks at the temple to confiscate the tigers after allegations of wildlife trafficking and abuse surfaced.
The monks deny any wrongdoing. – CINEWS