All 146 big cats will be removed from Kanchanaburi’s Tiger Temple after Songkran, wildlife officials vowed yesterday, despite a dramatic standoff last week over the removal of six moon bears kept there.
After 20 years of operation which were punctuated by reports of abuse and criminality, Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua’s abbot and staff have refused to cooperate with investigations that followed a former veterinarian’s accusations over several missing tigers he suggested were sold last year.
Now the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plants Preservation has renewed its promise to rescue all the animals and place them into government care at facilities in Ratchaburi province.
Although they succeeded in removing about 100 trafficked birds in February, an attempt last week to rescue six moon bears, valued by traffickers for their precious bile, turned into a disaster when the abbot fielded hundreds of young monks to block government trucks, leaving the bears to suffer in cages in the heat.
The rule of law did not prevail in that case, which reportedly was settled when officials snuck a crane next to an outside wall and hurriedly hauled the bear cages over while a cordon of police held them at bay.
Cherdchai Jariyapanya, who is responsible for the move, said he expected to get the green light from national parks chief Nipon Chotibarn after Songkran, who spent the weekend reviewing the new facilities where the tigers will be kept, Thai PBS reported.
It’s unclear what additional measures would be taken to move the tigers and avoid another standoff, however by broadcasting their plan, officials might be plotting another smokescreen with plans to move them on a different date.
The government estimates caring for the 146 tigers will cost at least THB1 million per month.
Meanwhile tourists were reportedly seen continuing to flow into the Tiger Temple to pay for the chance to snog with the tigers and mug for selfies.
Photo: Spring News