THAILAND’S notorious Tiger Temple will lose all 137 of its remaining big cats as officials set about relocating them, a move celebrated by animal rights groups and campaigners who have been vying for the animals’ removal for years.
Over a thousand officials are expected to enter the temple premises on Monday and have issued strict warnings against anyone who attempts to obstruct them from taking the animals.
According to the Bangkok Post, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation deputy director-general, Adisorn Nuchdumrong, said they would be sending in teams to collect and take the felines to Pa Khao Son and Khao Prathap Chang wildlife breeding centers in Ratchaburi.
He urged the monks and disciples who run the temple to cooperate with officials or risk having legal action taken against them.
“If there is a fight or obstruction of authorities performing their duty, the department will sue everyone because officials have to do their job and [the temple] has been notified in advance,” said Nuchdumrong.
The Tiger Temple is widely regarded as one of Southeast Asia’s most controversial tourist attractions, and aggressively opposes any scrutiny. Last year, armed officials conducted a raid on the temple that was hindered by monks and locals who blocked their path.
It has been accused of numerous offenses from illegal breeding to unfit habitat conditions, to trafficking the animals on the black market.
An expose by National Geographic in January found evidence that the temple was farming the tigers for their body parts, which are worth a fortune on the black market, and even selling the big cats to a tiger farm in Laos.
There were 147 tigers at the start of 2016, but officials relocated 10 of them after announcing the closure of the controversial temple, which has been the subject of animal rights groups’ protests for exploiting and mistreating the animals to gain profit.
Relocating the animals will take up to seven days to complete, as officials are only able to transport 20 animals a day.