A Tiger confiscated from a private apartment in outskirts of Bangkok on Monday as part of a series of raids and spot checks conducted by Thailand’s Wildlife Enforcement Network. (Credit: FREELAND Foundation.)
Bangkok, Thailand (September 11, 2012) Yesterday, Thai authorities swooped in on captive tiger owners in two locations to see if laws had been broken, resulting in one arrest in one case and a confrontation that could lead to further action or lawsuits in another. Both actions demonstrate the serious challenges facing Thai authorities in dealing with the country’s large captive tiger population.
In Pathumthani, two adult tigers and two tiger cubs were confiscated in a raid on a private apartment. Thai Nature Crime Police conducted the raid after intelligence showed that the owners were involved in the illegal wildlife trade. The tigers were sent to a government care center.
In Kanchanaburi, the Director General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) led a surprise visit to Thailand’s famous ‘Tiger Temple’ following a report on the death of one of its tigers. The temple, a popular tourist destination, has seen its tiger population grown from 44 to 100 in the past eight years, raising questions about the sustainability of the temple’s tiger management.
“Thai authorities are doing the right thing to check captive tiger facilities, because captive tigers are being found in the illegal trade that goes through this country,” said Onkuri Majumdar, FREELAND Senior Officer. The two incidents illustrate the growth of private tiger facilities in Thailand. The trend presents serious challenges to those concerned about animal welfare and the growth in the illegal wildlife trade. The current permitting system for tigers provides a loophole for traffickers to launder tigers by using their permits as cover. More then 880 tigers in 21 zoos are currently registered with DNP, but the actual number of tigers in private hands is believed to be much higher. While some facilities, such as the tiger temple, make their money from tourists, other operations holding 100 tigers or more have long been suspected to be breeding tigers for sale on the black market.