WWF Applauds Removal of Tigers from Tiger Temple and Encourages Thai Government to Permanently Bar the Temple from Keeping Tigers
“We were dismayed last month when the Tiger Temple was granted an official zoo permit by the DNP. This was despite longstanding allegations and ample evidence that the Tiger Temple is trafficking tigers into the illegal wildlife trade. This week’s actions to remove the tigers from the Tiger Temple are long overdue and we strongly encourage DNP to make the removal of the tigers permanent.” Said Yowalak Thiarachow, Country Director, WWF-Thailand.
In addition to the Tiger Temple, other facilities with captive tigers should also be investigated to ensure tigers are not falling prey to illegal wildlife trafficking and abuse. Facilities found in violation of international and national wildlife laws must be prohibited from acquiring, owning and breeding tigers.
The “Tiger Temple Report” by the Australian conservation group Cee4life, released in January of this year, contained shocking allegations that the Tiger Temple was trafficking wildlife through Laos. This breaks both CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulations and Thai law. According to Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act B.E. 2535, importing or exporting of tigers and their carcasses is prohibited by law and subject to a maximum of four years imprisonment and/or a 40,000 Baht fine.
This report reinforces long held suspicion that the Tiger Temple has been posing as a sanctuary for tigers while secretly acting as a tiger farm and selling tigers and tiger parts on the black market for an enormous profit. The facility does not have a license to breed, or even keep these tigers in captivity and it has repeatedly ignored Thai Government prohibitions against breeding tigers in captivity and allowing contact with the public. Tiger numbers have increased from 18 in 2007 to 147 in 2016 and direct contact with the paying public continues to this day. Closing the Tiger Temple and similar facilities would end an illegal, corrupt, and cruel trade and enable the DNP to focus their efforts on increasing the number of wild tigers in the country.
According to DNP, Thailand has an estimated 1200-1300 captive tigers in at least 33 facilities. For years, tigers in captivity have put a black mark on the country’s reputation as a leader in tiger conservation, undermining the efforts Thailand has made to protect and conserve tigers in the wild. By addressing the issue Thailand can enhance its commitment to implement the “Thailand Tiger Action Plan 2010-2022” and also show that they are implementing and complying with obligations under the CITES resolution. The resolution asks countries to review national management practice and controls of tigers in captivity, and prevent tigers from entering the illegal trade.
We also encourage the DNP to ensure that the removed tigers are kept in legal, approved, secure facilities where they will not be abused or fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade. WWF therefore recommends that:
- The current action to remove the tigers should be permanent and followed up by legal action to ensure that the Tiger Temple never again keeps captive tigers.
- The Royal Thai Police investigate the allegations made by the report on the abuse and illegal wildlife trafficking of tigers.
- The DNP relocate the tigers only to reputable tiger sanctuaries run by the DNP. And, under no circumstances should they be relocated to the World Buddhist Sanctuary, which has close links to the Tiger Temple.
- The DNP ensures all tigers have identification microchips inserted under their skin to make sure they do not enter the illegal wildlife trade.
- The DNP seek technical and financial support from external agencies involved in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking.