Officials at a sanctuary in Thailand said Friday they are racing to keep dozens of tigers alive after more than 80 died from disease following their confiscation from a controversial temple.
The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple — better known as the “Tiger Temple” — had for years attracted tourists with the promise of being able to pose for photos next to the big cats.
But repeated allegations of exploitation led officials to confiscate the animals, moving them to two nearby sanctuaries in 2016.
This week experts said 86 of the 147 tigers have died, blaming the deaths on canine distemper virus typically found in dogs.
The surviving animals have been separated into groups depending on their symptoms, Kao Pratubchang sanctuary head Banpot Maleehuan told reporters Friday.
“For the group with serious symptoms, the vets will plan to operate on them to make sure they live longer,” he said.
The ones with less severe symptoms will receive medicine.
The enclosures in a different part of sanctuary contained some of the surviving tigers, and Banpot told reporters they are planning to build a large yard “so they can relax”.
Thailand gets some 38 million tourists a year, with many of them attracted by a large wildlife tourism industry.
Activists say abuse is rife in the industry.
Raids in 2016 on the Tiger Temple uncovered dozens of dead tiger cubs inside a freezer.
Legal cases against the temple are ongoing.