Wildlife authorities have found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in Thailand’s infamous Tiger Temple during a raid to remove live animals.
The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, had become a tourist destination where visitors snapped selfies with bottle-fed cubs. The temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, but in recent years it has been investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.
A raid that began on Monday is the latest move in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control.
The 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer in a kitchen area, said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, the deputy director general of the Department of National Parks.
“They must be of some value for the temple to keep them,” he said. “But for what is beyond me.”
Monks at the temple were not immediately available for comment.
Adisorn said officials had moved 52 live tigers from the temple since Monday, leaving 85 still there.
Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory. Exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, some of them endangered species, can often be found on sale in markets. Tiger parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
On Tuesday the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group said the temple was “hell for animals” and called on tourists to stop visiting animal attractions at home and abroad.