Bangkok: The last batch of a total of 137 tigers from Thailand’s Tiger Temple were relocated on Saturday, ending the six-day-long relocation process.
Five suspects including three monks are now charged with illegal wildlife possession.
Thai wildlife officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) removed the last batch of nine tigers from the famous tourist site in Kanchanaburi province to a breeding centre in Rachaburi province, Xinhua reported.
The last tiger brought out was a male named Sayfa (thunderbolt), with a weight of 300 kg.
The last batch of tigers are about eight to 12 years old, and the hot weather made the relocation slower, Patrapol Maneeorn, wildlife veterinarian of DNP, said on Friday.
According to the DNP, all 137 tigers are now in two breeding centres in Rachaburi. Those Indochinese tigers that shared the same subspecies with wild tigers living in Thailand will be released in nature habitat later, while Bengal tigers will stay.
Other animals including peacocks, deer and wild boars living in the temple will also be relocated but it will take more time.
Officials have found a lot of items made from tiger, bear and other animals bodies in the raid going on since Monday on the zoo-like temple.
Besides the 40 dead cubs found in a freezer on Wednesday, about 33 jars with tiger cubs and animal organs in them were found on Thursday.
Patrapol said there were about 27 tiger cubs in these jars, adding that the purpose behind it remains to be examined.
He and another official opened one of the jars and formalin could be smelt.
On Thursday, wildlife officials intercepted a monk with two laymen in a truck leaving the temple and confiscated two tiger skins, about 700 amulets made from tiger parts and 10 tiger fangs from the van, reports said.
A lots of amulets made from tiger parts were also found on Friday in a van near the bedroom of the abbot, Phra Sutthi Sarathera, or Luang Ta Chan, who left the temple for Bangkok last Sunday but his whereabouts remain unknown.
Officials also found plastic bottles and labels saying “deer antler velvet supplement”.
Since tourists around the world visited the temple it is hard to say where these products were sold to, said Adisorn Noochdumrong, deputy director general of DNP.
Skeletons of an Asian golden cat and a leopard were found on Friday near the bedroom of the abbot, along with stuffed Asian golden cat, leopard and Asian black bear, the media reported.
According to Adisorn, the wildlife department will not revoke the zoo license recently issued to the temple.
But the license may be revoked if anyone from the Luang Ta Bua Foundation, which asked for the license, is found guilty of animal trafficking, said Teunchai Noochdumrong, an official in charge of wildlife protection at DNP.
DNP has talked with Thai police commissioner Chaktip Chaijinda about the case, he said.
“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,” Chaktip said on Friday.
Adisorn said they began to suspect animal trafficking two years ago when news came out that three tigers disappeared from the temple.
DNP said they did not act earlier because the wildlife authority has to think about people’s feelings as the abbot and the temple are respected by many.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Saturday asked people to learn from this case.
“The people should tell right from wrong based on facts and truth rather than belief… don’t draw the conclusion that every monk or every temple is doing good deeds,” he said.