IBTimes UK

Thailand police investigation revealed that the closed Tiger Temple was a slaughterhouse and holding facility used by a suspected animal trafficking network.

While inspecting 30 other zoos nationwide for wildlife trafficking, the police discovered four live tigers and a dozen empty cages in a house 50 km from the temple in western Kanchanaburi province.

In an interview with The Associated Press, police colonel Montri Pancharoen said they raided the house surrounded by tall fence in an isolated area.

The police believe that the house was used to hold live tigers before they were slaughtered for their skins, meat and bones, or sent to restaurants in Thailand which serve tiger meat for tour groups.

The Thailand Tiger Temple which was one of the country's top tourist attractions over decades, was shut down last week after the discovery of dead tiger cubs and other species stuffed in the temple refrigerators..

The government officials removed 137 tigers from the temple. The police investigations claimed that people linked to the temple were breeding tigers to smuggle those animal parts to the global market for wildlife parts in China and other countries.

Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director of Thailand's Department of National Parks, said: "It's too soon to reach that conclusion yet".

Phra Wisutthi Sarathera, the 61-year-old monk of the temple, who is also known as Luang Ta Chan, said that he will hold a media conference on Thursday and tell his side of the story. Luang Ta Chan left the temple on the eve of the police raid.

According to the officials, about 2,000 animals were there in the temple including boars, horses, deer, cattle and a male lion which were suffering from food shortage. The officials want the temple authority to produce documents proving that they own the animals.

The government accused the temple of being involved in wildlife trade and had been trying to close down the temple for quite some time, but had to face stiff resistance and a legal battle from a wealthy tourist enterprise and influential Buddhist monks.

However, the monks denied abusing the tigers or trafficking animals and promoted the temple to be a place where tigers coexist with human beings in Buddhist harmony betraying their wild nature.

Last year, there were several tiger attacks on tourists and staff and the court had ordered to take away ten tigers in January and February. Recently, a tiger handler was captured on a video punching a tiger in the head while the visitors clicked pictures of the animals.

The Bangkok Post reported the tigers were supposed to have microchips implanted in them although the temple veterinarian revealed that the chips were removed from three adult male tigers which apparently disappeared in December 2014.

The tigers were taken to a veterinary hospital by the wildlife officials who have arranged home for them in breeding centres. As the tigers were raised in captivity, it is not possible to set them free in the jungle making their future uncertain.

On the other hand, the non-government organisations want the government to set a new management for the temple, which will operate as an animal educational centre and transfer the tigers back to the temple complex, a known ambience for them.

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