Scores of tigers rescued from infamous Thai temple have died: media
Thai wildlife authorities vowed to inspect other tiger attractions, and confiscated 24 tigers from two venues, but the scrutiny has been short-lived.
More than half of the tigers that Thai authorities confiscated in 2016 from an infamous Tiger Temple tourist attraction have died from a viral disease because their immune systems were weakened by inbreeding, media reported.
The Buddhist temple west of Bangkok was a tourist destination where visitors took selfies with tigers and bottle-fed cubs until authorities removed its nearly 150 tigers in 2016 in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.
The confiscated animals were taken to two state-run sanctuaries but it soon became apparent they were susceptible to canine distemper virus, said a senior official from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
"When we took the tigers in, we noted that they had no immune system due to inbreeding," the department's deputy director-general, Prakit Vongsrivattanakul, told the state-owned broadcaster MCOT on the weekend.
"We treated them as symptoms came up," Prakit said.
Prakit did not give a figure for the number of tigers that had died but public service broadcaster Thai PBS reported that the toll was 86 of the 147 rescued animals.
The temple had promoted itself for years as a wildlife sanctuary, but it was eventually investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.
Wildlife activists accused the temple's monks of illegally breeding tigers, while some visitors said the animals appeared drugged. The temple denied the accusations.
From selfies with tigers to elephant rides and orangutan boxing, Thailand offers tourists an array of attractions that animal rights activists say are cruel and should be shut down. Wildlife officials discovered scores of dead tiger cubs while rescuing 137 tigers from a Buddhist temple in 2016, raising fears that other tourist attractions could be fronts for animal trafficking.
During their week-long raid on the Tiger Temple west of Bangkok, wildlife officials found frozen tiger carcasses, skins and dead cubs in jars, as well as other protected species.
It is unclear why the Tiger Temple was storing dead tiger cubs and parts, although officials have said they might have been used for traditional Chinese medicine.
The authorities had filed complaints against 22 people, including six monks. Thailand has long been a hub for illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, and endangered animal species are often sold in its markets. Thailand introduced a new animal welfare act in 2015 to curb abuse, but activists say it is poorly enforced.