Buddhist Tiger temple where 40 frozen cubs found set to open new venue
The Thai Buddhist temple where 40 frozen tiger cubs were found in a freezer last year is set to open a new tiger facility next month.
Warning: this story contains graphic images
When Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple was raided in June last year, authorities uncovered the carcasses of 40 tiger cubs inside a freezer.
The body of a small bear, a set of deer horns and plastic bottles reportedly containing animal parts were also found, and over 100 tigers were gradually removed from the premises.
Now animal rights group World Animal Protection says Tiger Temple is planning to reopen under the name Golden Tiger (Thailand) Co Ltd.
It will reopen in March, according to the Tiger Temple website, which is already urging tourists to reserve spots.
"Only 30 persons per day," it says.
One of the tours includes "breakfast with monks and 105 tigers".
World Animal Protection said the monastery was constructing the new facility in Kanchanaburi, the same province as the Tiger Temple, and had been given a provisional licence by the Thai Government.
But it said the facility would not be issued a full zoo licence unless it met 11 specified conditions within six months, including enclosure size and vet care.
Thai police charged 22 people with wildlife trafficking in June last year, including three Buddhist monks, and removed more dead animals, including a bear and a leopard, from the tourist attraction.
Tiger Temple was a major tourist attraction for more than two decades, with visitors paying 600 baht ($23) admission to pose for photographs with the animals.
Wildlife activists accused the temple of illegally breeding the tigers, while some visitors on online forums complained that the tigers appeared sedated.
The temple denied the accusations.
It also said tigers had a high infant mortality rate and claimed deceased cubs were kept in jars or frozen to preserve them.
But Thailand's Department of National Parks (DNP) said the preservation indicated the cubs must have been of value to the temple.
World Animal Protection has called for the DNP to refuse Golden Tiger Co Ltd a license and to impose a breeding ban.
"Tiger venues need to be stopped in their tracks because they clearly have links to the dark side of wildlife trafficking rings," Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a senior wildlife advisor at World Animal Protection said.
Legal cases and police investigations into the Tiger Temple are ongoing.