Thailand: race against time to save sixty tigers confiscated at a temple

A race against the clock began in Thailand to save sixty tigers confiscated in 2016 from a temple that used them as a tourist attraction while dozens of felines from this much-maligned place have already died.

For years, the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in Kanchanaburi (west) has drained hordes of tourists to be photographed, against payment, among the tigers.

In 2016, the national parks of Thailand decided to confiscate the felines, withdrawn from the temple little by little, while the accusations of abuse and exploitation multiplied.

But since their transfer to two refuges in the country, only 61 of the 147 confiscated tigers have survived. The others died after suffering from distemper.

And of those who are still alive, a number are sick.

“Veterinarians have divided sick tigers into three categories” according to the symptoms they present, said Friday at a press point Banpot Maleehuan, head of the shelter Kao Pratubchang in Ratchaburi province, a hundred kilometers to east of Bangkok.

“Those with the most severe symptoms will be operated on,” he added, adding that the least affected cats would also be vaccinated against distemper.

For Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, the deaths of 86 tigers confiscated at the temple “could have been avoided” if the shelters had asked for help.

Officials of Kao Pratubchang also presented tiger carcasses and the “formalin” technique they used to preserve them, while the trafficking of tiger cubs is very lucrative in the region. The latter, highly sought after in China and Vietnam for their supposed medicinal virtues, can reach astronomical prices.

Dozens of dead baby tigers had been found in freezers at Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, probably for resale.

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