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Photos from today's seizure: left © TRAFFIC, centre and right © Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP)

Photos from today's seizure: left © TRAFFIC, centre and right © Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP)

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Published 30th November 2020

  Chinese 

Five live tigers and a tiger head seized from Thai Zoo

Bangkok, Thailand, 30th November 2020—Several tigers have been seized today from a Thai zoo after tests showed the animals declared as born there had no links to older tigers in the facility. The tigers were seized from Mukda Tiger Zoo and Farm, a facility in Mukhdahan province that neighbours Savannakhet province in Lao PDR. The facility has long been under government watch and the subject of previous seizures and legal action. 


Of the five animals seized, one female and two male tigers Panthera tigris had been reported born to two older tigers at the zoo. However, DNA test results in late September showed the three were not related to the supposed parents or any of the other 20 tigers within Mukhda Zoo.

Authorities have also removed two more tigers for further forensics testing and are investigating the discovery of the head of yet another tiger within the Zoo. 

“The authorities have done a great job looking into the legality of this tiger ownership” said TRAFFIC’s Maethinee Phassaraudomsak. “We hope investigations reveal the true provenance of the tigers and spurs checks on all animals held at this facility”.

The seizure was carried out by a group of  enforcers and officials including from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP): Wildlife Conservation Office, Protected Area Regional Office 9 in Ubonratchathani, Office on Combatting Illegal Wildlife Trade of Thailand (GEF-6), Special Task Force on Combatting Illegal Wildlife Actions (Wild Hawk), Special DNP Ranger Task Force (Tiger Squad) and other related agencies.

The Zoo owner now faces at least one charge of illegal possession under Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2562 (2019) and several more under the Criminal Code for providing false information. Together, these charges carry penalties of over eight years in jail and THB570,000 (USD18,1824) in fines. Authorities also said at a press conference attended by TRAFFIC that the Zoo’s licence would be suspended for 90 days.

The same facility was raided in January 2019 upon suspicion of illegal acquisitions of 44 native and non-native wildlife, which were seized including a CITES Appendix I-listed Red Panda Ailurus fulgens and a Red-shanked Douc Langur Pygathrix nemaeus.

However, charges against the zoo were later dropped by the Mukdahan Provincial Attorney’s Office on grounds of insufficient evidence to pursue the case. The animals were returned to the facility.
Today’s seizure refocuses the spotlight on the troubling ties between captive tigers and illegal trade and farming involving Thai zoos.

In 2016, Thai authorities raided the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province that had been suspected of illegally breeding and trading in tigers. Over 130 live tigers, more than 40 dead tiger cubs, tiger pelts and 1,500 tiger skin amulets were among the wildlife products seized. 

TRAFFIC’s analysis of global tiger and parts seizures from 2000-2018 found over half (58%) of the Tigers seized in Thailand originated from captive breeding facilities – largely involving whole carcasses and live animals, with the largest proportion coming from the 2016 seizure.  

In 2017, a dozen tigers were seized from a pig farm in Chon Buri province where several species of wildlife had been kept illegally. 

At a press conference to announce the seizure today, authorities said Thailand had 49 zoos in total and 32 of these are home to 1,511 tigers. 

Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has direct management responsibilities for 19 of the zoos and authorities said checks on tigers in these facilities would continue. The other zoos fall under Thailand’s Zoological Park Organization.

“Today's actions are very much in line with the global call for better record keeping, monitoring and enforcement of captive tiger facilities taken at CITES(1), to prevent laundering or leakage of animals into the illegal trade,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. 

“Thailand’s revamped wildlife law with higher penalties and its well-established forensics expertise places it in a good position to lead on this crackdown, to find the parties responsible for this decades-long problem.”


Notes:

1. CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Speices of Wild Fauna and Flora.