By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM,
THE tiger relocation operation from the controversial Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi has been labelled a success after the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation relocated the last 11 animals yesterday.
The DNP revealed that the seized evidence
from the temple was worth Bt1.5 million and said its investigation into the temple’s alleged involvement in illegal wildlife trading was ongoing.
It said the Royal Forestry Department, Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO), and Land Department had begun their probe into whether the temple illegally acquired land.
DNP deputy director-general Adisorn Noochdumrong said while all the tigers had been removed, department officers were still gathering evidence at the venue to determine if the temple had been involved in the illegal wildlife trade.
“We have successfully transferred all 137 tigers from the temple. All of them are healthy and under the care of the department’s veterinarians,” Adisorn said.
“However, we found out that eight female tigers show signs that they just gave birth to tiger cubs. But among the 137 tigers, there are no young tigers, so we are now investigating to find out where are these tiger cubs and how this issue connects with the tiger cubs remains that we have seized.”
A DNP team used a search warrant
to enter the temple on Monday. The seized items include a stuffed Asian black bear, two stuffed leopards, antlers, leopard skeletons, five cubic metres of timber and more than 60 fresh and pickled tiger cubs.
Adisorn said that as part of the investigation into alleged illegal wildlife trading, the DNP was inspecting CCTV footage at the temple.
“We have got clear evidence that may confirm the accusations against the temple and we are now analysing and preparing the evidence in order to file more charges against the temple,” he said.
“Even though we have still not pressed charges against temple abbot Luang Ta Chan, we have enough proof from witnesses and solid evidences that he may be involved in these [alleged] illegal activities, so we would like to ask him to hand himself over to the authorities to assist the probe.”
According to reports, Luang Ta Chan fled the temple by car with temple personnel one day before the DNP team raided the temple and has not returned to the temple or made contact with anyone there. His whereabouts are unknown.
The Kanchanaburi ALRO office’s legal officer Rojanaphan Naring-in revealed that the office and other relevant agencies were mapping the temple grounds to determine if the temple had complied with the conditions of its land-use permit with the ALRO.
“The temple gained permission from the ALRO to use 391 rai [62 hectares] of the land for religious purposes only. But based on the news, we are now probing to see if the temple has complied with the [land use] conditions,” Rojanaphan said. “If it hasn’t, we will send a letter to the National Office of Buddhism, and if the temple still does not listen, their land right will be revoke.
“Moreover, if the ALRO finds out that the temple has encroached beyond the permitted land, they will face legal action.”
Adisorn stated that if the temple were guilty of illegal encroachment, its zoo permit would immediately be revoked. He said that even if the temple could legally run the zoo, all the animals must be legally obtained or the zoo may be closed down.