A monk from a disgraced Thai ‘tiger temple’ has been caught trying to flee with valuable skins and fangs.
The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple – also known as Tiger Temple – in Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok, was raided on Monday after accusations of severe animal abuse.
‘Today we found tiger skins and amulets in a car which was trying to leave the temple,’ Adisorn Noochdumrong, deputy director of Thailand’s parks department, said.
During a further search of monks’ quarters, Adisorn added, officials found two full-body tiger skins, about 10 fangs, and dozens of pieces of tiger fur.
Conservationists and rights groups have also long accused the temple of acting as a secret tiger farm, making huge profits by flogging the tigers and their parts on the black market.
Tiger body parts are sometimes used in Chinese medicines, or are sold as good luck charms.
The temple has been popular with westerners for decades, visited by tourists wanting to take ‘tiger selfies’ with big cats that animal rights campaigners warn are routinely sedated.
Since the initial raid, around 40 dead tiger cubs have been discovered stuffed in a freezer in a kitchen, while more than 100 adult cats were found in poor conditions.
Officers say they have removed 84 tigers this week so far, and are transferring them to nearby breeding centres.
No charges have been filed against the temple yet, because the case is still under investigation.
However, the temple denies allegations of trafficking.