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Thailand’s officials raided the Tiger Temple this week and seized more than 100 tigers as well as 30 hornbills. The temple is suspected of wildlife trafficking.
Rumors of wildlife trafficking and poor treatment of the tigers have plagued the temple for years. The temple has also been under fire for keeping the tigers chained up even in areas where tourists are not allowed to enter.
Despite these rumors, tourists still flock to the temple in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province to pet and take photos with the tigers.
The temple received its first tiger cub in 1999 after being rescued from poachers. That cub would die soon after, but many other cubs have found a home at the Tiger Temple, and many were born there as well.
According to one Thai official, over 100 tigers have been impounded during the raids this week. The tigers are being kept at the temple until the officials complete their investigation. In addition to the tigers, officials also seized 38 hornbills.
The Tiger Temple considers itself a breeding facility for tigers as well as an animal sanctuary. The abbot has denied allegations of trafficking and mistreatment of the animals. Officials are trying to determine if the temple had the appropriate documentation and permits to raise the tigers.
Although Thailand was once known for being a wildlife trafficking hub, the country has worked hard in recent years to shed this reputation. However, demand from China, particularly for ivory tusks and tiger parts, have made it difficult to eliminate all illegal wildlife trafficking. Wildlife experts warn that the problem won’t be resolved until conservationists reduce China’s demands for tiger parts.
A programme manager at TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors wildlife trade, advised officials to investigate the origins of the tigers and hornbills seized in the temple raids. She hopes the investigations go beyond the seizure of wildlife and include the pursuit of legal action to deter future offenders.