By Pratch Rujivanarom,
Officials raided into and successfully caught and transferred several tigers at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok district yesterday.
It was the first batch of 137 tigers that the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department has planned to take away from Wat Pa Luangta Maha Bua Yannasam-panno, more widely known as the Tiger Temple.
The department's deputy director Adisorn Noochdumrong led the yesterday's operation himself. Adisorn was armed with a search warrant
from Kanchanaburi Provincial Court, but the team’s work was made difficult because of the temple’s lack of cooperation and its decision to allow 10 tigers to roam free.
“We are trying to solve the problems step by step,” he said.
The department hopes to relocate all 137 tigers in seven days. Most of the tigers will be sent to the Khaoson and Khao Prathap Chang breeding centres in Ratchaburi province.
However due to the temple’s attitude, Adisorn admitted that the operation may take longer than seven days.
At the breeding centres in Ratchaburi, cages were cleaned in preparation of the animals’ arrival. The facility in Khaoson will take up to 58 tigers, while Khao Prathap Chang could take 80. Others could be sent to breeding centres across the country.
There was high tension at the temple yesterday as officials and representatives from the temple’s foundation met. When the department team arrived in the morning, it was refused entry.
Pol Colonel Suphitphong Phakcharung, vice-president of the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Foundation, said the group opposed to the action because the temple had raised the tigers for more than 10 years without a problem.
Suphitphong said he was looking forward to taking legal action against the department and would ask the court to revoke the search warrant.
Kasetsart University Faculty of Forestry lecturer Anak Pattanavibool said the authorities were right to relocate the tigers because the state was the animals’ rightful owner.
“The procedure to keep the tigers at breeding centres is the best choice we can do, because these tigers were raised in captivity and cannot be returned to the wild. Furthermore, many of them are Bengal tigers, which are not native to Thailand,” Anak said.
“We cannot give them to a zoo or other countries because they are the government’s property, so the government has to keep them until they naturally die.”
The department said seven tigers were given to the temple in 2001 to be raised on behalf of the state and the tiger population rose to the level it was at today.
But the department’s attempts to seize the animals were always rebuffed by the temple, officials said.