Thailand Seizes 100 Tigers From Famed Tourist Attraction

Thailand's famed Tiger Temple may soon be tigerless.

The tourist attraction, which houses more than 100 tigers, has been raided on suspicion of links to wildlife trafficking. Authorities impounded the tigers and are keeping them at the temple in the country's western Kanchanaburi province while they investigate whether the temple has the right permits for the animals.

Flickr/Juame Escofet

The temple has offered tourists a chance to get up close with tigers for years, advertising itself as a sanctuary for the big cats. But more than one investigation has revealed that the animals are kept in tiny cages for long hours and in extreme heat, and kept on chains nearly all the time. The facility also runs a captive breeding program (a practice that most sanctuaries don't condone), and separates mothers and cubs at a young age so that people can cuddle with the young tigers.

Flickr/Doug Beckers

Tigers were found exhibiting signs of malnutrition and obsessive behaviors during visits between 2005 and 2008, according to a report by the international organization Care for the Wild International, together with Born Free. The report also alleged that tigers supposedly being bred for conservation were exchanged with a tiger farm in Laos.

Thailand is a known hub for wildlife products, though it's been trying to crack down on the black market in recent years. In 2013, The New York Times reported that the country had seized 46,000 animals from traffickers over the previous two years. In addition to tigers, monkeys, pangolins and snakes were all coveted.

Now, conservationists hope the seizures result in "legal action and a deterrent punishment for offenders" - one step in tackling Thailand's massive illegal wildlife trade.

See this database of responsible travel options to find places to see Thailand's wildlife - without harming them.