BANGKOK (AP) — Wildlife officials have removed more of the 137 tigers kept in a Buddhist temple that operated as an admission-charging zoo and is suspected of illegally trafficking in the animals, Thai authorities said Tuesday.
The director of Thailand’s Wildlife Conservation Office, Teunjai Noochdumrong, said 40 tigers were tranquilized and removed in two days. They are being taken to government animal shelters elsewhere in the country.
She said they hope to move 20 tigers a day, or more if the weather is cool.
Teunjai said the temple in western Kanchanaburi province is still admitting tourists, but her personnel are warning visitors of the possible dangers of being present during the moving process. There are 300 government employees at the site, including 80 veterinarians.
Animal rights activists have long accused the temple of mistreating the tigers. The government suspects the monks have been involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals.
The monks had turned back previous attempts to take the tigers away, and continued to resist Monday morning. But they relented that afternoon after police obtained a court order to carry out the action.
“There was some resistance from the community, they didn’t understand why we were taking them (the tigers) from the temple when they look so peaceful and fine at the temple,” said Teunjai. “We tried talking to them, explaining to them that the tigers belong to the country.”
The monks still don’t understand, but at least did not put up physical resistance, she said.