Bangkok, June 9 (IANS) The controversial Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Buddhist monastery, popularly known as the Tiger Temple accused of abusing dozens of tigers seized by wildlife authorities in Thailand, on Thursday denied allegations that it mistreated or traded the animals.
At a press conference, a representative for the monks Siri Wangboonlert said: “This is a robbery. They have no right to confiscate the tigers,” CNN reported.
The Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province was a popular attraction with visitors who paid an entrance fee to pet and pose for photos with the 137 cats, but it had faced substantial criticism over its alleged practices.
The temple’s abbot, Luang Ta Chan, was expected to speak at the press conference, but arrived on a gold cart and waved at reporters before leaving.
Temple officials said he was not involved in the running of the sanctuary and could not speak as he had recently undergone a heart operation.
During a raid by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) to remove the tigers in late May, authorities found 40 cub bodies in the temple’s freezer, along with other animal parts.
Five men, including three monks, have been charged with possession of endangered animal parts without permission. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of four years in prison and/or a fine of $1,100.
Earlier, the temple defended itself on Facebook, saying that the cub mortality rate was high and that the bodies were preserved for scientific purposes.
But authorities said whether it was for research or the more sinister intent to sell them, it was illegal to keep unregistered cubs.
The 137 confiscated tigers have been moved to a new home at a governmental sanctuary in Ratchaburi province, about 90 km away.