Bangkok, Sep 16 (IANS) At least 86 of the 147 tigers rescued from an infamous Thailand temple where they featured as a tourist attraction have died due to genetic problems, authorities said on Monday.
The tigers were suffering from problems due to inbreeding and died between 2016 and 2019 in the two government wildlife sanctuaries, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s Deputy Director-General Prakit Wongsriwathanakul said at a press conference.
The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok, for years attracted tourists who could be photographed – for a fee – next to tigers. In 2016, however, park officials began an operation to remove the tigers amid allegations of mismanagement. There were claims that the creatures were being exploited.
The authorities said that the tigers suffered stress during their transfer to the wildlife sanctuaries but that they died due to respiratory problems, laryngeal paralysis and canine distemper virus, according to Efe news.
Fifty-four tigers died in Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Sanctuary and 32 in Khao Son Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Buddhist temple, officially known as Pa Luang Ta Bua Yannsampanno, in 1994 took in its first tiger cub, which was found by some villagers. In 2001, the number of tigers was seven and over the next 15 years the figure rose to 147.
The tigers became a popular tourist attraction where visitors would pose for photographs with the animals and walk with them, which was for years condemned by animal rights organizations.
The tigers looked to be sedated while interacting with tourists, according to organizations that also accused the temple of being a cover for carrying out illegal wildlife trafficking.
In 2016, Thailand’s Department of National Parks seized the tigers after some of them escaped, and due to their large numbers, concerns for their health rose.