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article imageThailand's 'Tiger Temple' cleared of charges of mistreatment

By Sravanth Verma     Feb 25, 2015 in Environment
Kanchanaburi - Thailand's wildlife protection agency, called in to investigate charges of mistreatment of tigers at the famous Luangtamahabua Buddhist temple called "Tiger Temple," have cleared the monks and the temple establishment of any wrong-doing.
They determined that none of the more than 100 tigers housed on the premises were mistreated. The temple, a popular tourist attraction, was however found to be housing 38 rare hornbills, endangered birds that are protected by law. These have been confiscated.
Fifty officials from the wildlife department and local religious affairs office, and some soldiers, spent three hours at the temple conducting an inspection. The temple is also referred to as the "Tiger Temple," and is a popular tourist spot, where monks can be seen walking and even riding tigers. The monks and the veterinarian who takes care of the animals had denied all the charges prior to the inspection. The temple was accused of drugging the tigers in order to keep them tame.
Tourists are quite happy to help the temple feed and happily pet the tigers and pose for close-up photos with them, while their donations help pay for the tigers' maintenance.
The temple is situated in the western province of Kanchanaburi in Thailand, and has been housing tigers since 2001, when seven Bengal tigers seized in a wildlife bust nearby were handed over to it for care-taking. There are 143 full-grown tigers and cubs today. Buddhism's ideals of non-violence and coexistence with all life results in many temples being a haven for stray dogs, but a healthy tiger population is quite a rare sight.
Cherdchai Jariyapanya, director of the regional office of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said, "The tigers are living in quite healthy conditions. They are well taken care of. They have had microchips embedded in them and the department has been informed every time a new cub is born."
The microchips are used to store information about ancestry and medical records, which helps in preventing animal trafficking. Jariyapanya will be reporting the results of the inspection to the country's director-general of wildlife, who will then take a decision of whether to leave the tigers alone or whether they should be brought under the care of the government.
If the government does step in, it would cost them 20 million baht ($612,000) a year, and a new facility would have to be constructed to house them. "We already have a number of confiscated tigers in our custody already," he said.
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