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Probe into Thai 'Tiger Temple' ends, 22 charged in wildlife trafficking

By
Daniel Uria
Authorities are set to take legal action against Thailand's Tiger Temple after 137 tigers were rescued from the tourist attraction which has been linked to animal abuse and trafficking. Police charged 22 suspects including three Buddhist monks with trafficking and continued to investigate links between the temple and international wildlife trading. The temple may also lose its license to operate as a zoo following the investigation. 
 Photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI
Authorities are set to take legal action against Thailand's Tiger Temple after 137 tigers were rescued from the tourist attraction which has been linked to animal abuse and trafficking. Police charged 22 suspects including three Buddhist monks with trafficking and continued to investigate links between the temple and international wildlife trading. The temple may also lose its license to operate as a zoo following the investigation. Photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo

BANGKOK, June 4 (UPI) -- Authorities in Thailand are seeking legal action after completing a five day-operation to seize more than 100 tigers from Thailand's "Tiger Temple," which has been linked to animal abuse and trafficking.

Wildlife Conservation Office director Tuanjai Noochdamrong declared the operation, which saw 137 tigers tranquilized and transferred out of Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple, completed Saturday, as police prepared to take legal action against the temple and its operators.

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According to The Nation, police charged 22 suspects including three Buddhist monks with trafficking, as Royal Thai Police commissioner Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda said authorities had begun investigating Tiger Temple's connection with international wildlife trading.

"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," he said. "I want to assure that we have a clear plan for investigation and have information about a wildlife smuggling group."

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Wildlife officials found animal remains including the dead bodies of 40 tiger cubs at the temple near Bangkok.

Other remains including tiger pelts, talismans made from tiger parts, stuffed animal carcasses and animal skeletons were found both in the temple and near the residence of the temple's abbot who left the temple prior to the operation.

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Authorities relinquished control of the compound following the transfer operation, but no representatives of the temple were present at the time.

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While separate from the issue of animal trafficking, Tuanjai said that the temple could have its license to operate as a zoo revoked.

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