An animal rights organization said on Thursday it would take authorities to court for granting a zoo permit to a temple notorious for operating an illegal, commercial wildlife business. In February, authorities rejected a zoo application from Tiger Temple.
Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, aka the Tiger Temple, hoped to gain legal status for its horde of 147 tigers by applying for the zoo permit. In violation of national laws, the temple has been keeping and breeding tigers without a permit for years.
Activist Edwin Wiek said the lawsuit would be a “last resort” in his efforts to stop Yanasampanno from getting the long-sought permit that would legalize its operations.
“What happened is a clear violation of the regulations, because there are so many pending cases against the temple” said Wiek, who heads Wildlife Friends of Thailand. He did not say when he would file the civil suit.
Pressured by animal welfare activists and an international outcry, authorities have for years waged a reluctant battle against the influential Tiger Temple on wildlife-related charges, such as illegally keeping tigers and other protected species.
The temple, which has bred an untold number of tigers in captivity, has also sold at least three of its big cats, but insists it was done legally.
Wildlife officials have made slow progress. After declaring again in January that it would remove all tigers from the temple, which caters to tourists willing to pay to touch the animals, only 10 of the 147 animals have been removed.
The zoo permit would allow the Tiger Temple to legally keep its tigers, and even buy those 10 back from wildlife authorities, said Saiyood Pengboonchoo, a lawyer for the temple and added that the zoo will be registered under a separate private enterprise, called Tiger Temple Co., to stave off any potential backlash from religious authorities. The bureaucracy doesn’t want the temple involved in this because it would look bad.
Wiek, whose organization has campaigned against the Tiger Temple’s wildlife business for many years stated: “My feeling for this issue, well, the Department of National Parks seemed to be very serious in the past about many cases, but why aren’t they taking any action against the Tiger Temple? I feel disappointed in the department and in the police.”