Wildlife authorities in Thailand have found adult tiger skins and fangs during a raid on the “tiger temple” tourist attraction and intercepted a monk who was trying to leave in a car that was carrying skins. Separately, officials said they would press charges against the Buddhist temple after 40 tiger cubs were found in a freezer on Wednesday.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) moved in this week to relocate 137 tigers to government-run sanctuaries after repeated allegations of animal trafficking. The temple claims the tigers will be worse off.
“Today we found tigers skins and amulets in a car which was trying to leave a temple,” said Adisorn Noochdumrong, the deputy director of the DNP. He said a search of several monks’ quarters yielded further body parts, bringing Thursday’s haul to two full-body tiger skins, about 10 fangs and dozens of pieces of tiger fur.
Volunteers, staff and monks at Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple complex have long denied trafficking allegations. But international animal rights groups including WWF and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals applauded the raid. Police Col Bandith Meungsukhum told AFP the dead cubs would have been one or two days old. He said their DNA would be tested to see if they were related to tigers at the temple.
The temple claims it decided in 2010 to stop cremating the cubs and preserve them to “keep as proof against the allegations of selling cubs”.
Thailand is a central route for the illegal wildlife trade through south-east Asia, including for ivory, rhino horn and live animals. Tiger parts, including bones and penises, are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the trade in tiger parts and products in 2007. The raid is the culmination of a battle that has been going on for years between the government and the temple. Thailand has an estimated 1,200-1,300 captive tigers.