Thailand’s infamous Tiger Temple, shut down on suspicion of wildlife trafficking last year, is now set to reopen under a new name. Starting in 1999, the Tiger Temple, a popular tourist attraction run out of a Buddhist monastery, kept and bred tigers for commercial purposes including shows, tiger walks, and photo ops. For years, animal welfare groups protested the ill treatment of tigers at the Temple. Tiger cubs were routinely separated from their mothers at just weeks old, handled by tourists, trained using starvation as punishment, and housed in small barren enclosures.
In May 2016, police and wildlife officials raided the temple. They discovered the bodies of more than sixty tiger cubs frozen or preserved in formaldehyde, as well as skins, teeth, and amulets made from tiger parts. Genetic testing showed that some of the cubs had been bred elsewhere, and that the temple was being used for illegal trafficking. The temple was closed to the public, and its one hundred and thirty-seven living tigers were confiscated and moved to government facilities. Around ten females were lactating, though no live cubs were found on site. Four more tigers were later found at a nearby compound, believed to be a holding site for tigers awaiting slaughter.
Most of the people involved with the Tiger Temple, including the abbot of the monastery, have not been arrested or charged. Now, the Temple is constructing a new business venture next door to the monastery, a zoo under the name Golden Tiger Company Limited, which will contain one hundred and five newly purchased tigers. Despite last year’s raid and the evidence connecting them to wildlife trafficking, the Tiger Temple has been granted a provisional zoo license by the government. Thai travel companies are already booking tours of the new facility, starting as early as this April.
(Featured image credit: Nick Hubbard, CC BY 2.0)