KANCHANABURI -Wildlife-protection officials have removed the last 11 tigers from the famous Tiger Temple in Saiyok district of Kanchanaburi Province. A total 137 were all relocated to two new homes in Ratchaburi Province.
The six-day relocation of the tigers came with no resistance from either temple staff or local residents as the last tiger â€œSai Fa 2â€ was tranquilized and put in cage before being transported to the wildlife breeding centre in Chom Bung district.
Deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Mr Adisorn Nuchdamrong said wildlife-protection officials have so far filed criminal complaints against five suspects for illegally possessing endangered animals or animals parts.
Those involved included monks living and working at the temple, none of whom could be reached for comment. Some were arrested while attempting to move tiger pelts and other body parts away from the temple.
Officials said Saturday the abbot of the temple and other senior monks there could also face criminal charges as investigations widen.
The last day of search inside the temple and at guest room near the abbotâ€™s residence, also revealed more stuffed animals of rare species which are not allowed by laws for individuals to own.
They included an Asiatic black bear, an Asian golden cat, a leopard, skeletons of an Asian golden cat, and a leopard.
All were confiscated along with other tiger parts and carcasses which were earlier found.
Thailand has long been a hub for wildlife trafficking despite recent efforts to crack down on ivory smuggling and the shipment of exotic birds and animals. Tiger parts are among the most sought-after specimens. They are still used in traditional medicine in China, where such products are now within the financial reach of more people and are often sold as a way to boost sexual potency in men. In Vietnam, their bones are ground down into a paste, which allegedly protects against a variety of ailments.
Environmentalist groups such as the Born Free Foundation have been calling for an investigation into the templeâ€™s activities for years. The temple offers an up-close-and-personal experience for tourists, offering visitors the chance to bottle-feed cubs, among other attractions. Tourists, though, often complained that the adult cats appear sedated. Wildlife activists warned that such practices were merely a front for the templeâ€™s real purpose, which they said was to provide ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine.