Forty dead tiger cubs have been found in a freezer at a Buddhist temple in Thailand that operated as an admission-charging zoo.
The discovery happened while authorities were removing mostly full-grown live tigers from the temple in western Kanchanaburi province following accusations that monks were involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals.
The cubs were found in a freezer where the temple staff kept food, said Anusorn Noochdumrong, an official from the department of national parks who has been overseeing the transfer of the temple’s 137 tigers to shelters. Since Monday, 60 have been tranquilised and removed.
Mr Noochdumrong said: “We don’t know why the temple decided to keep these cubs in the freezer. We will collect these carcases for DNA analysis.”
He said the cubs appeared to be up to a week old and added that authorities plan to file charges against the temple for illegally possessing endangered species.
The cubs appeared to be up to a week old, he said. Authorities plan to file charges against the temple for illegally possessing endangered species.
The temple’s Facebook page said in March that its former vet had decided in 2010 to stop cremating cubs that died soon after birth. Calls to the temple’s office were not answered.
The temple, a popular tourist attraction, has been criticised by animal rights activists because of allegations it is not properly set up to care for the animals and flouted regulations restricting the trade of tigers.
The monks resisted previous efforts to take away the tigers, but relented this week after police obtained a court order.
The temple recently made arrangements to operate as a zoo, but the plan fell through when the government determined that the operators failed to secure sufficient resources.
Earlier this year it was announced that the world’s wild tiger population had increased for the first time in more than a century.
At the third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, officials announced that the estimated number of tigers living in the wild has increased to 3,890.
That represents a dramatic increase from the previous estimate of 3,200 tigers published in 2010.