Thai authorities today said they have enough evidence against the now infamous Tiger temple’s abbot and have asked investigators to trace the Buddhist monastery cum Tiger zoo’s earnings, reportedly over $30 lakh annually.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) Deputy director general Adisorn Noochdumrong said all tiger farms in Thailand will be inspected for possible involvement in tiger trafficking.
The DNP insisted it has enough evidence against the abbot and is urging investigators to trace the temple’s earnings, estimated to be more than USD 30 lakh annually.
The Tiger Temple’s abbot Luang Ta Chan, who was absconding during the raids at the temple last month had returned but cancelled his scheduled press conference yesterday because of a heart attack.
However, he was later seen inside the sprawling premises in a golf cart and he even waved to the media.
A lawyer for the Tiger Temple foundation said abbot Luang Ta Chan could not talk to reporters as he had suddenly suffered an acute heart attack.
Siri Wangbunkerd, a temple follower and former Bangkok MP, spoke to the press on behalf of the abbot and denied all allegations against the temple and Luang Ta Chan.
“The abbot knew nothing about the products from tigers or the remains of tiger cubs. These products were secretly produced by temple personnel who smuggled in the remains of dead tigers behind the abbot’s back,” Siri said.
“The person involved decided to hide these items in the abbot’s room because he thought the officials would not check this room, as a result now it looks like the abbot himself was involved in this activity.”
He also said that the pickled tiger cubs were to be used for scientific research purposes and were to be displayed in the temple’s museum. They were certainly not for sale, he said.
Authorities during the raids had found frozen carcasses of at least 40 tiger cubs and at least 137 tigers were relocated.
The temple is a key tourist attraction located a couple of hours outside Bangkok in Kanchanaburi.
So far five men, including three monks, have been charged with possession of endangered animal parts without permission
Last week, Thailand’s wildlife authority shut down the Tiger temple after several carcasses of tiger cubs were found in freezers at the sprawling temple grounds.
A slaughterhouse was also found at the premises on Tuesday by police.