Infamous Thai Tiger Temple To Reopen Under New Name

Authorities discovered 40 frozen tiger cubs at the original location before it was shut down last year

The controversial Tiger Temple on June 3, 2016. — REUTERS
Feb 24, 2017 at 1:49 PM ET

A shuttered Thai Buddhist temple where 40 frozen tiger cub carcasses were discovered last year has plans to reopen under another name, an animal welfare charity reports.

An investigation by World Animal Protection discovered that Tiger Temple Co. Ltd., is planning on reopening under the moniker Golden Tiger (Thailand) Co. Ltd. The new venue is being built in the Thai town of Kanchanaburi, located west of Bangkok and directly adjacent to the grounds of Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Yannasampanno — the location of the previous Tiger Temple attraction.

According to its website, the Tiger Temple will reopen in March. “Book now to reserve your place only 30 persons per day,” it reads.

The temple, a de facto zoo in which visiting tourists could take pictures with tiger cubs and watch adult cats perform tricks, reportedly had 137 tigers. But in June of last year, the temple was raided by Thai authorities, who discovered the bodies of dozens of tiger cubs shoved in a freezer. Further, officials found a small bear carcass, deer horns, and plastic bottles allegedly holding animal parts. The temple has been accused of illegal wildlife trafficking, and investigations into the practices at the premises are still ongoing.

“Frequent allegations by several NGOs of tiger venues being involved in the illegal tiger trade were confirmed last year after the crackdown on the Tiger Temple, which identified dozens of dead tiger cubs in jars, tiger skins, tiger teeth, and other products for trade,” Jan Schmidt-Burbach, WAP’s senior wildlife adviser, told Vocativ in an email Friday. “Genetic analysis of some of the cubs and tigers has confirmed concerns that many tigers came from unidentified outside sources, suggesting illegal trade activities.”

More Demand For ‘Tiger Selfies’ Leads To Horrific Cruelty

WAP says that the Thai government has given the monastery a provisional license, though it will not be granted a full zoo license unless it meets 11 specified conditions within six months. While those conditions include building enclosures suitable for adult tigers and proper animal care, they do not prohibit breeding or having tourists interact with the animals.

“The breeding of tigers occurs by forcefully separating tiger cubs from their mothers shortly after birth. The cubs will then be hand-raised to use them for direct tourist interactions from an early age. The distressed mother will after some time be able to mate again and produce another litter,” Schmidt-Burbach said. “This highly questionable practice of speed-breeding leads to an ever-increasing supply of captive tigers that are generally housed in severely inadequate conditions, e.g. cages, concrete pens, or far too small enclosures.”

Thailand’s widespread tiger tourism industry has been the subject of scrutiny for quite some time. A study released last summer by WAP detailed the country’s rapidly expanding tiger entertainment sector and the cruelty surrounding it. Further, a report by the World Wildlife Fund found that 76 percent of visitors to Thailand’s tiger farms were not aware of how badly the tigers were treated.

“We have seen the number of tiger farms increase at an astounding rate across Asia over recent years. These undermine efforts to halt the illegal trade and protect wild tigers by complicating enforcement efforts and boosting the demand for products and parts,” Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief adviser on wildlife, said in a statement issued in July. “It is vital tiger farms are closed.”