Bangkok: Thailand is known for its wildlife tourism. From selfies with tigers and elephant rides to orangutan boxing, Thailand has a lot to offer as tourist attractions.
Animal rights activists and environmentalists, however, have a different take on these services, saying that are cruel and should be shut down.
The Tiger Temple raid, that took place last week in Thailand, unmasked a horrifying reality when the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation discovered the remains of over 40 tiger cubs in the temple's kitchen freezer, while also rescuing 137 tigers.
The discovery has led to an arousal of suspicion among wildlife authorities directed at other tiger attractions, which the Department of National Parks plans to inspect.
Calling the raid at the Tiger Temple “just the tip of the iceberg”, Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a Bangkok-based adviser at World Animal Protection, told Reuters that, “We see an increase in demand for wildlife entertainment, and there's limited transparency on what goes on behind the scenes and how those venues are profiting from the animals.”
Frozen tiger carcasses, skins and dead cubs in jars, were a part of the haul during the temple raid among other protected species.
Although the temple denied all allegations, 22 people, including six monks, are under investigation by the police, after wildlife authorites complained against them for illegal possession of wildlife and wildlife trafficking.
Steve Galster, executive director of Freeland, a Bangkok-based group fighting human and wildlife trafficking, told Reuters, that, “We know that some zoos and a lot of wildlife operators supply animals into the black market. They breed the animals, have some there to make money from tourists, and sell the extra ones.”
On Wednesday, more than 100 animals, including two tigers and two elephants were seized from a zoo in Hua Hin.
The popular Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi, which came under scrutiny in 2004 after it shipped at least 100 tigers to a Chinese zoo, will also be inspected.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand largely promote both the Tiger Temple and Sriracha Tiger Zoo on the website of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
However, Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul told Reuters that she had "no knowledge" of the trafficking allegations against the temple and said it was not her ministry's responsibility to look into them.