Bangkok - At least 40 dead tiger cubs, a dead bear and various animal horns were found by wildlife officials Wednesday on the grounds of Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple.
The bodies of the cubs and bear were found stored in the freezer where the temple kept food for the tigers, according to Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the wildlife department.
"The temple never registered these dead cubs, they are illegal," he said. The discovery of dead animals proves that Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yanasampanno, popularly known as Tiger Temple, has been engaged in illegal breeding and smuggling activities, said Edwin Wiek, Head of the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand.
"Under the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) treaty, no wildlife farm or sanctuary can engage in the breeding of protected species," Wiek told dpa by phone.
"These animals were bred and hidden away. I believe that they were stored to be sold for parts on the black market," he said.
Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has long accused the temple, a popular attraction where tourists can stroke and pose for photos with the big cats, of keeping the animals without a proper permit.
The temple has denied claims from conservationists that the monks carry out irresponsible breeding programmes, traffic endangered species and illegally sell the animals.
Wildlife officials in Thailand began removing tigers from the grounds of the temple earlier this week. As of Wednesday at least 40 tigers have been removed from the grounds of the temple, with the rest set to be removed in the coming week.