INQUIRIES into illegal wildlife trade continued to try to find a links with international dealers, after tiger parts and ‘pickled’ bodies of stillborn cubs were found in the controversial Tiger Temple.
To date, police have charged 22 suspects, including three Buddhist monks, with wildlife trafficking.
Royal Thai Police commissioner Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda said yesterday they were now investigating the connection between the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok district and international wildlife trading. He had ordered deputy national police commissioner Pol Gen Chalermkiat Srivorakan to oversee this investigation.
“We are tracking on this topic very closely and will check if all wildlife products that were found in the temple are linked to the international wildlife trade or being stored for what purpose. I want to assure that we have a clear plan for investigation and have information about a wildlife smuggling group,” Chakthip said.
He said that Pol Gen Chalermkiat would be responsible for cooperation with international agencies on this task and assured that the conclusion of the investigation would be disclosed promptly, as the issue was not complex and also in the public interest.
The temple’s link to the international wildlife trade was brought to public attention on Thursday after a monk and temple officers were caught
trying to sneak away with tiger skins, nine engraved tiger fangs and more than 1,000 tiger-skin amulets. Meanwhile, more than 50 jars with stillborn tiger cubs in them were also found in the temple.
Pol Col Bandit Muangsukham, Sai Yok Police Station superintendent, revealed that as of now there were three monks and two people had been charged with four offences – illegally keeping hornbills, a bear, wild animal remains and illegal timber.
Bandit said police were now investigating the possible crime link with temple abbot Luang Ta Chan.
Phra Lamom Wantiya, a monk at the temple, said the abbot had left the temple last Sunday, but had not returned or made contact with the temple since then. However, Bandit believed the abbot had not fled the country.
Chalermkiat said he had ordered police across the country to be on the lookout for any raising of illegal wild animals. If anyone was found guilty, they would be punished swiftly according to the law.
In regard to the relocation of tigers
from the temple, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) deputy director-general Adisorn Noochdumrong revealed that 119 tigers had been moved, while there were new discoveries of many rare animals. Last year, there were 147 tigers at the temple. But as of yesterday, officials had found 149 tigers for relocation.
“We have found more protected animals in the temple such as Malayan sun bear, hornbill and banteng and have already transfer all of the animals to Bang Lamung breeding centre in Chon Buri,” Adisorn said.
He said the DNP had invited relevant agencies to inspect the temple’s land – around 2,000 rai – on whether it was legally acquired.
The department was also working with an animal forensic science team from Mahidol University to run a test on the bodies of ‘pickled’ tiger cubs found in jars – to find out what caused their death and any genetic link with tigers in the temple. But it would take at least two months to finish those tests.