A raid yesterday by the Thai Nature Crimes Police led to the confiscation of 4 adult tigers and 2 tiger cubs found in an apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok. The apartment in Pathumthani was raided after police received intelligence that the owners were involved in illegal wildlife trading.
The seized tigers are now being looked after in a government wildlife facility.
The tigers were being kept in a badly maintained rooftop cage of a four-story apartment in a residential neighborhood in Pathum Thani province. The owner of the apartment and tigers only had a permit to keep 2 tigers. Why the authorities issued permits to keep tigers in a residential area has not been released and raises questions in itself.
The tigers were kept in poor conditions and were severely malnourished when they were rescued. The owner had only fed them with chicken bones.
Surasak Bunthienthong, 28, the caretaker of the building has been arrested and charged with illegal possession of protected wild animals. He claimed he was collecting the tigers in order to open a zoo in the future.
Intelligence about the tiger facility was gained as part of a wider investigation into illegal wildlife networks in Thailand. The raid followed an arrest in Nonthaburi’s Bangkruai district last week, police said, the suspects tipped police about the apartment. The police believe that the apartment block was being used as a transit point for tiger trading.
Residents living in the block – mainly factory workers at the local industrial estate – appeared to have ignored the presence of the tigers on top of their apartments.
There are concers in Thailand that wildlife traders are using captive tiger permits as a way to launder tigers through the country before the tigers are exported to countries such as Vietnam where they are most valuable.
The Thailand Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation have 880 captive tigers registered at 21 zoo and many conservationists believe that the acutal numbers of tigers kept captive in unlicensed and unregistered private collections to be substantial.
“Thai authorities are doing the right thing to check captive tiger facilities, because captive tigers are being found in the illegal trade that goes through this country,” said Onkuri Majumdar, FREELAND Senior Officer. “The trend presents serious challenges to those concerned about animal welfare and the growth in the illegal wildlife trade. The current permitting system for tigers provides a loophole for traffickers to launder tigers by using their permits as cover.”