BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai officials have raided a Buddhist temple that is home to more than 100 tigers and are investigating suspected links to wildlife trafficking, authorities said on Thursday.
Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, or Tiger Temple, in Thailand’s western Kanchanaburi province, is popular with tourists who pet, cuddle and pose for selfies with the big cats.
The temple has been dogged for years by talk of links to wildlife trafficking and its maltreatment of tigers.
A Thai official said at least 100 tigers had been impounded in raids this week and were being kept at the temple until authorities wind up their investigations. Thirty-eight hornbills, a bird species, were also seized. “We’re checking if the temple had official permits to keep them,” said Cherdchai Charipanya, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in the province of Ratchaburi.
The temple bills itself as an animal sanctuary and tiger-breeding facility, and its abbot has denied animal cruelty and illegal trafficking.
Thailand is one of the world’s biggest hubs for wildlife trafficking. In recent years, the country has tried to shed its reputation as a source and destination for exotic meat and rare pets. But demand from China, including for tiger parts and ivory tusks, has fuelled a thriving trade in illicit wildlife.