Officials in Thailand are removing tigers from the grounds of a Buddhist temple.
The tigers were popular with travelers, who could pay to walk among them and take photographs. But wildlife groups said the animals suffered from poor treatment.
Thai officials said they were reacting to reports that the tigers were kept in small spaces – sometimes in chains. Animal rights groups said some tigers were in bad health.
By late Tuesday, the Reuter news service reported that 40 tigers had been taken from the temple, west of Bangkok. Thailand’s Department of National Parks said efforts to remove the remaining 97 tigers would continue in coming days.
CNN reported that temple officials tried to slow the process by setting some tigers free.
Thai officials said the captured tigers will be taken to three animal sanctuaries in Thailand, according to the Associated Press.
The group that operates Tiger Temple said the animals were treated well.
“There is nothing illegal and dangerous at all,” the group told CNN. It said removing the tigers will hurt the local economy.
According to Reuters, people visiting the temple often used mobile telephones to take pictures of themselves petting tigers.
Wildlife groups praised the Thai government’s decision to remove the tigers.
“Tourists suckered into Tiger Temple unwittingly supported the torture of tigers,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It said the animals were drugged and beaten with sticks.
Katie Moore of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said tigers do not belong in small spaces. They suffer in such spaces, she said.
Adam Roberts is the leader of Born Free USA. He told VOA that he hopes the rescue of the tigers in Thailand will lead to similar actions in China and the United States. He said tigers are held and traded as pets in some parts of the U.S. In China, tigers are held in “tiger farms” for bones and other body parts, Roberts said.
On its website, Tiger Temple said some tigers have to be tied down to protect visitors and other tigers because they sometimes wake in a “restless state.”
“People’s safety has to be our main concern,” it said.
Thai officials said they received reports about visitors to the temple being attacked by tigers.
The Thailand temple’s collection of tigers is not unusual, according to Moore of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
“There are many instances around the world of tigers, and other wildlife, being held in poor conditions,” she said.
I’m Bruce Alpert.
Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOANews.com. George Grow was the editor.
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tourist – n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure
chain – n. Metal that is attached to an animal to keep him/her from moving
sanctuary – n. a place where animal is protected in a natural setting
pet – v. to touch an animal
sucker – v. tricked
unwittingly – adv. without knowledge
pet – n. an animal kept for pleasure, not its usefulness