More than half of the tigers who were rescued from a Buddhist temple in Thailand three years ago died in government custody, according to the BBC. Only 61 of the 147 tigers rescued from the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Temple, a former tourist hot spot known as the Tiger Temple, are still alive.
Thai Ministry of National Parks officials said they had many of the pre-existing cats weakened by the relocation stress, died of a virus. The authorities also blamed genetic problems linked to inbreeding among the tigers.
The Thai authorities said that the main cause of death was laryngeal palsy, a respiratory disorder affecting respiration. Others suffered from distemper, a serious illness caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system in some groups of animals. Many of the tigers died in the episode.
Edwin Wiek, founder of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), told the BBC that the tigers were kept in close cages, which favored the spread of disease. He added that distemper is curable in dogs, but with a limited budget it was difficult to get access to treatment.
"To be perfectly honest, who would be willing to take in so many tigers at once?" Wiek said. "The authorities should have asked for outside help, but instead insisted on doing all the work themselves."
Tiger Temple was a popular tourist attraction in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok. It was criticized by animal rights activists because it was allegedly not designed to care for animals and violated regulations that restricted their trade. Police raided in 201
Tiger parts found during the raidthat the temple is run as a temple access zoo that operates unethical breeding and trafficking of endangered animals. The temple has been closed since 2016 and many of the legal cases are still ongoing.