More than 80 tigers that were rescued from a temple in Thailand have died from a viral disease, according to local media reports.
The Buddhist temple – Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, known as Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok – was a tourist attraction where visitors took selfies with tigers and bottle-fed cubs.
But in 2016, authorities removed its 147 tigers in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.
The animals were taken to two state-run sanctuaries, where it soon became apparent they were susceptible to canine distemper virus, according to a senior official from the country’s department of national parks, wildlife and plant conservation.
“When we took the tigers in, we noted that they had no immune system due to inbreeding,” the department’s deputy director-general, Prakit Vongsrivattanakul, told the state-owned broadcaster MCOT.
“We treated them as symptoms came up”.
He did not give a figure for the number of tigers that had died, though public service broadcaster Thai PBS reported that the figure was 86 – more than half.
The temple had promoted itself as a wildlife sanctuary for years, but it was eventually investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.
Its monks were accused of illegally breeding tigers by wildlife activists, while some visitors said the animals appeared drugged. The temple denied the accusations.
Sky News has contacted the Thai government’s Department of National Parks for comment.