Temple Accused of Illegal Tiger Trafficking
Thailand's famous Tiger Temple has long been accused by wildlife activists of exploiting its captive big cats, a claim that has been strongly denied by the monks and ignored by its visitors.
New evidence reveals that the Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Temple has been engaging in illegal cross-border tiger trafficking, as reported by National Geographic conservation journalists Steve Winter and Sharon Gunyup. Their special investigation video has footage and interviews that implicate the controversial temple in the illegal trade. This means that "the tiger that you took a selfie with one day could end up dead and smuggled across the border the next."
The investigators found that the Buddhist monastery and popular tourist draw has been smuggling tigers to farms in neighbouring Laos at least since 2004, under the guidance of its founder and leader, Abbot Phra Acham Phoosit (Chan) Kanthitharo.
It has been reported that Thai authorities will begin relocating the temple's tigers to its own wildlife facilities.
The Tiger Temple draws in an estimated three million dollars a year and currently houses 147 tigers, a big draw for visitors who feed, walk, and take selfies with the captive animals for a hefty fee.
Last December, National Geographic journalists were tipped off by documents, audio and video released by Australian nonprofit Cee4Life, the culmination of a nine-year investigation that was made public on January 22, 2016.
Guynup wrote in her letter, "Captive tigers leaked into the illegal trade from any source feed a growing demand for luxury tiger products, including tiger skins and tiger bone wine. That demand places the lives of every one of the world's last 3,200 wild tigers in danger. As tiger expert Judy Mills notes, 'This is not just about a single Buddhist temple in Thailand. This is about the fate of wild tigers.'"