On Tuesday, a tiger meat slaughterhouse was discovered near a Thai Buddhist temple. The Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua (Tiger Temple) in the Sai Yok district is a famous tourist attraction where people pay to walk tigers on leashes and take photos with them.
After receiving a tip, the Thai police raided a home in western Thailand's Kanchanaburi province. The isolated house is about 30 miles from the Tiger Temple and is covered by tall fences.
Authorities discovered four live tigers — two males and two females — as well as a dozen empty cages. The two male tigers were aged 10 and 1 while the two female tigers were aged 10 and 2. Authorities believed that the home is acting as a slaughter house and a holding facility for the live animals.
"We believe it was used by the Tiger Temple to hold live tigers before slaughtering them for their skins, meat and bones to be exported outside the country, or sent to restaurants in Thailand that serve tiger meat to tour groups," said police colonel Montri Pancharoen, Crime Suppression Division deputy commander who led the raid.
The said slaughterhouse contained several knives, a large chopping board, a large refrigerator, several tiger food and other equipment thought to be used to help relocate the animals. According to the two detained caretakers, the tigers were private properties of the house's owner.
The caretakers said the house belongs to 68-year-old Thawat Khachornchaikul who is also known as Sia Tong. The alleged owner was not there when the raid took place.
Pancharoen added that the Tiger Temple could simply be a supplier, stating that they have information that the temple isn't the only one supplying tigers to illegal smugglers.
The discovery of the slaughterhouse is just the latest in the current scandal surrounding the Tiger Temple. About 40 dead tiger cubs were discovered in a freezer while 20 more were found preserved in jars. Authorities were able to retrieve over 137 live tigers from the temple grounds.
The DNA of the four live tigers discovered in the alleged slaughterhouse will be compared to the DNA of the tigers retrieved from the Tiger Temple. Montri also said that an investigation will also look if the four slaughterhouse tigers are linked to the three tigers that were reported missing from the Tiger Temple way back in 2014.
Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation have filed several complaints about the abbot for the mistreatment of tigers. The Thai government also suspected that the temple monks are somehow involved in the animal tracking and illegal breeding activities.
Photo: Matt Reinbold | Flickr