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Thai authorities, monks reach deal on ‘Tiger temple’

Wildlife officials register, scan microchips of tigers kept by monks rather than transferring them as threatened.

25.04.2015
Thai authorities, monks reach deal on ‘Tiger temple’

BANGKOK 

Thai authorities and monks at a Buddhist temple in the country’s west have reached a deal on the fate of 146 tigers kept at the popular tourist site, media reported on Saturday.

The controversy about the “Tiger Temple” – or Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua -- of Kanchanaburi province had reached new heights this week when the government wildlife office threatened to transfer all the tigers the monks had kept since 2008 to government facilities by Friday.

But when the day came and wildlife officials arrived at the temple, they contented themselves with registering the animals and scanning their microchips.

The deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation denying that they had intended to seize the tigers.

“We just wanted to do the right thing according to the law,” Adisorn Nuchdamrong told The Nation.

Under the agreememnt -- and in a move bound to disappoint animal rights defenders -- the tigers will remain at the temple under certain conditions, including the registering of all 146 tigers and their offspring as state assets.

Furthermore, the animals cannot be exploited for commercial purposes and must all be equipped with microchips.

The deal only covers tigers and not other species kept at the temple, like Asian black bears and hornbills.

Animal rights organizations have long denounced the conditions under which the tigers and others protected animals were kept and exploited at the temple.

The founder of One Green Planet, a wildlife protection organization, told the Chiang Rai Times ealier this month, “Thailand’s tiger temple is at the heart of the unfortunate wild animal selfie trend that has emerged in the past few years.”

Nil Zacharias added: “Despite claims that monks are concerned with the welfare of the animals and focused on conservation and rescue work, we have featured in-depth articles exposing the cruel truth behind this terrible tourist attraction.”

Previous attempts to transfer animal from the attraction were also met with protest.

On April 3, wildlife authorities had to intervene to forcibly remove six Asian black bears from the temple – only for a small protest by “temple supporters” to erupt a few days later in front of the Bang Lamung wildlife breeding facility where the bears were moved.

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