Thailand authorities are inspecting private zoos in the country suspected to be part of a criminal gang smuggling tiger meat and carcasses to China after over 30 tiger cubs were recovered last month from the Tiger Temple.
Several Thai zoos raising Bengal tigers were found to be involved in the illegal tiger trade ring, crime suppression division deputy chief Montri Paencharoen said.
“Chinese people believe tiger meat is a source of prowess. That’s why tiger meat is popular in China and that’s why a number of Thais with licences to operate a zoo are [unlawfully] supplying the tiger meat to the Chinese market,” Montri was quoted as saying by the local media.
He added that his department had already secured information on gangs smuggling tiger meat.
The privately-run zoos normally avoid reporting the actual number of tigers born in captivity so they can sell the cubs illegally, he said.
Earlier last month, a team of wildlife and forest protection officials found 30 preserved Bengal tiger cubs, two pieces of tiger skin and several items made from tiger and other wildlife species from the now infamous Tiger Temple or Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua in Kanchanaburi province.
The items were removed from the living quarters of the temple abbot, following which the authorities relocated 147 live tigers from the premises.
Female tigers, over a two-year period, can give birth to about a dozen cubs, each worth Rs 5 lakh on the black market, Montri said.
A healthy two-year-old tiger normally weighs 200 kg and its meat can fetch up to Rs 50,000 per kg, he said.
Tiger bones are also sold as a key ingredient in some Chinese traditional medicines.