Thailand’s Tiger Temple fights to keep its big cats

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Thailand’s famous Tiger Temple, which has suffered criticism for years over allegations that it supplies the black market and mistreats animals, is fighting to keep the big cats after Thailand’s wildlife authorities rejected an attempt to extend a zoo license that expired in 2013.

The Buddhist temple, which houses more than a hundred tigers, was investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking, and activists have accused it of illegally breeding the animals. Thai authorities meanwhile have sent ten of the temple’s tigers to a wildlife sanctuary.

The temple, which touts itself as a wildlife sanctuary, has denied any links to trafficking and wants to keep its tigers.

“This is their home. They are happy here”, said Supitpong Pakdijarung, an official of the foundation that runs Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, as the temple is called in Thailand. “The government has to find a budget to take care of them”, Supitpong, the body’s deputy chairman, told Reuters. “Here, the money comes from donations. It is about giving and generosity”.

He denies accusations that tigers bred at the temple have been sold on the black market.

But the allegations of mistreatment of tigers had dented Thailand’s tourism image, said Teunchai Noochdumrong, director of the country’s Wildlife Conservation Office.

“The world is looking at us”, he added. “The temple did not allow officials to enforce the law. The temple has affected Thai tourism”.

Previous attempts by wildlife officials to inspect the tigers have been blocked by the temple and its abbots.

Thailand has long been a hub for illegal wildlife trafficking, as a place where everything from exotic birds to reptiles, and even bears, is for sale, driven by international demand for exotic meats and rare pets.

One visitor to the temple said the tigers should be left there, rather than being confiscated.

“These animals are used to being around people”, said Victoria Carpenter, an American tourist.

SOURCE: Business Insider.

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