86 big cats rescued from ‘Tiger Temple’ now dead: officials

Photo: Tiger Temple Thailand / FB
Photo: Tiger Temple Thailand / FB

Animal lovers today were expressing sadness after learning that over half of the tigers rescued three years ago from an infamous tiger zoo west of Bangkok in Kanchanaburi province have died.

Anger at the government and tributes to the big kitties were being shared online after the weekend announcement that 86 of the 147 rescued animals succumbed to disease in the past three years.

“Poor tigers. They are helpless,” @Reviewsyamal tweeted. 

The tigers, confiscated from the facility in 2016, were found to have died after losing control of their larynxes due to suspected infections at the two shelters where they were being kept, Thanya Neithammakun, parks and wildlife department director, announced Saturday.

Thanya said the disease, which makes it difficult to breathe, killed 54 tigers at the Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Sanctuary and 32 at the Khao Son Wildlife Sanctuary.

The first died May 11, 2016, and others followed suit. Thanya said tigers had been well-cared for. 

Wildlife experts from Mahidol University have performed autopsies on the dead tigers and expect the results next week.

A full raid of Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, the self-styled Tiger Temple, took place in June 2016, when wildlife protection officials went in to remove all the wildlife being kept there illegally. Among the horrors discovered inside were collections of tiger parts being trafficked, off-site kitchens where they were butchered for their meat and the remains of 40 dead newborn cubs kept in storage. 

Luang Ta Chan, the abbot of the Tiger Temple who successfully evaded prosecution, said the tigers should have stayed at the temple. 

“If they’d let us take care of the tigers, our Tiger Temple project would have succeeded already,” he said. “I only feel pity now. Let’s say it’s the tigers’ karma.”

The tigers were freed three years ago following years of accusations and allegations of abuses coupled with repeated failures by the authorities to win their release. The temple was linked to commercial breeding and regional trafficking operations by investigators. 

The abbot refused to turn himself in and avoided prosecution.

Related:

Shameless, disgraced abbot’s plan to get five tigers and reopen Tiger Temple as zoo

Striped Shame: Tiger tourism still expanding despite Tiger Temple raid

Exclusive: Tiger Temple volunteer reveals the true story behind the 40 dead tiger cubs

Animal tourism across Thailand examined after Tiger Temple findings

Big cats removed from Kanchanaburi’s infamous Tiger Temple

Controversial Tiger Temple fights to keep tigers

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