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40 dead tiger cubs found in freezer at Thailand tiger sanctuary

By Andrew V. Pestano
40 dead tiger cubs found in freezer at Thailand tiger sanctuary
At least 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer in Thailand's Tiger Temple after officials raided the sanctuary over accusations of animal abuse, breeding tigers and selling animal parts. File photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo

SAI YOK, Thailand, June 1 (UPI) -- During a raid on Thailand's Tiger Temple on Tuesday, officials discovered 40 dead tiger cubs inside a freezer.

The tiger cubs were reportedly just one or two days old when they died and it is unclear how long they had been dead. In a Facebook post, the temple previously said its tiger cub mortality rate was "comparatively low," adding that it previously used to cremate dead cubs but began freezing them in 2010 as a policy shift "probably to keep as proof against the allegations of selling cubs."

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The 1,000-police operation in the temple will continue for the remainder of the week. Body parts of other animals were also found frozen.

"A number of the bodies are in a state of decay as they have been there over five years," Chris Coots, a British volunteer at the temple, told BBC News. "It would seem strange to keep the bodies that long if the intent was to sell them. This will be easily clarified by decomposition tests."

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Dozens of living tigers have already been removed from the temple, out of a total of 137 that were kept at the sanctuary. The Tiger Temple had been accused by wildlife and animal-rights groups of animal abuse, breeding tigers and selling animal parts.

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But the Buddhist monks and workers at the site deny the allegations.

"If there's any illegal trading or smuggling, there would have been ... evidence," said Supitpong Pakdijarung, managing director of the Tiger Temple Co. "It has been more than a year and the case hasn't gone anywhere."

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The removal process was conducted by the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department. Most of the tigers will be sent to the government's Khaoson and Khao Prathap Chang breeding centers in Ratchaburi province.

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