POLICE have found what they believe is a slaughterhouse and tiger holding facility used in a suspected animal trafficking network during their investigations at Thailand’s ‘Tiger Temple’ in Kanchanaburi.
Police Col. Montri Pancharoen said officers raided a house about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the temple in the Saiyok district, following a tip-off, and found four live tigers and dozens of empty cages.
He said: “We believe it was used by the Tiger Temple to hold live tigers before slaughtering them for their skins, meat and bones to be exported outside the country, or sent to restaurants in Thailand that serve tiger meat to tour groups.”
The grim finding is the latest in the growing scandal surrounding what was one of Thailand’s most notorious tourist attractions, adding fuel to accusations that the temple has been knowingly involved in and profiting from illegal trafficking.
According to the Independent, the property was found in an isolated area surrounded by tall fences, and had a “chopping area” with knives that authorities believe was used as the slaughter area.
Two caretakers, who claim the animals were owned by absent property owner Thawat Khachornchaikul, were detained by the police.
Pancharoen said the temple is merely a “starting point, or a supplier” to more animal trafficking operations.
“We have information that the Tiger Temple is not the only place that supplies tigers to illegal smugglers,” he said.
Police and wildlife authorities are set to inspect over 30 tiger “zoos” nationwide as they delve deeper into the pervasive illegal wildlife trafficking trade in Thailand, reports the Bangkok Post.
Deputy national police chief Chalermkiat Sriworakhan said he has issued orders to inspect more than 30 places where wild animals, including tigers, are kept, and to verify if they are operating legally.
The investigations into the Tiger Temple have been taking place for over a week now, with authorities uncovering more and more evidence against the temple that points towards illegal trafficking, including the discovery of 40 dead tiger cubs in a freezer and 20 more preserved in jars, as well as a monk attempting to drive out of the temple grounds with tiger skins and amulets.
According to the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Edwin Wiek, the abbot of the Tiger Temple said he will personally hold a press conference on June 9 to offer an explanation.
Additional reporting by Associated Press