This photograph is from the Tiger Temple of Thailand. It is a picture of harmony.
Millions around the world know how tigers, of the Royal Bengal Tiger of the tiger subspecies, amble around in the presence of human beings without harming a single soul ever.
But on June 1, authorities found 40 dead tiger cubs in the temple in a freezer inside the temple. They suspect that the temple was involved in trafficking of tiger body parts.
A Thai forest officer holding the dead body of a tiger cub from among the 40 found in a freezer. Reuters
Located in in Kanchanaburi and officially known as Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, the temple is a popular tourist destination famous for being the only place in the world where travelers can take photographs with tigers.
A tourist posing for a photograph with the tiger. TalkingNinja
Officials had raided the temple on May 30 in order to relocate 137 tigers to state-owned sanctuaries. Today, they discovered the carcasses inside the freezer.
Dario Pignatelli—Getty Images
They are now planning to press serious charges against the temple authorities.
A dead bearcat, a bull skull, deer horns, and various animal intestines were also found in the freezer.
According to a report in the National Geographic
, temple was making as much as USD 3 million each year from tourist admissions, who could take photographs with the tigers.
A tiger being relocated from the temple to a state-owned sanctuary in Thailand. Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
This is not the first time that the Tiger Temple has landed in controversy. The Thai authorities have on previous occasions tried to shut down the temple over similar allegations of trafficking. There were accusations that the monks mistreated the tigers. At the time there was little to no evidence and the monks had succeeded in blocking any attempt at removing the tigers from the sanctuary.
The temple authorities have refuted the accusation of the Thai authorities in an official Facebook post. They claim that the bodies kept in the freezer were of cubs that could not survive.
The authorities said that the cubs were not cremated but frozen on the advice of a former veterinarian who suggested keeping the bodies as evidence against allegations of trafficking.
The global tiger population, according to WWF, stands at 3,890. It is an increase on the 2010 estimate of 3,200 thanks to tiger conservation efforts in India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.