Thailand's animal tourism under scrutiny after Tiger Temple raid

Thu Jun 9, 2016 1:40pm EDT
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By Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - From selfies with tigers to elephant rides and orangutan boxing, Thailand offers tourists an array of attractions that animal rights activists say are cruel and should be shut down.

Wildlife officials discovered scores of dead tiger cubs while rescuing 137 tigers from a Buddhist temple last week, raising fears that other tourist attractions could be fronts for animal trafficking.

The Tiger Temple was "just the tip of the iceberg", said Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a Bangkok-based adviser at World Animal Protection.

"We see an increase in demand for wildlife entertainment, and there's limited transparency on what goes on behind the scene and how those venues are profiting from the animals."

During their week-long raid on the Tiger Temple west of Bangkok, wildlife officials found frozen tiger carcasses, skins and dead cubs in jars, as well as other protected species.

It is unclear why the Tiger Temple was storing dead tiger cubs and parts, although officials have said they might have been used for traditional Chinese medicine.

The authorities have filed complaints against 22 people, including six monks, whom police will investigate for illegal possession of wildlife and wildlife trafficking.

The temple denied the allegations at a press conference on Thursday.   Continued...

A tiger walks on a fence during a performance for tourists at the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, in Chonburi province, Thailand, June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom