Thailand: 4 Tigers Rescued, Suspected Trafficker Arrested

Two adult tigers and two cubs were rescued by Thai authorities from an apartment near Bangkok. Photo courtesy of FREELAND Foundation.

Thai authorities have nabbed a suspected wildlife trafficker following the seizure of four live tigers from appalling conditions in an apartment near Bangkok.

Two adult tigers and two cubs were rescued in Pathumthani by Thai Nature Crime Police, with essential support from FREELAND Foundation. A suspect identified as Surasak Bunthienthong has reportedly been arrested in connection with the incident; the case is believed to be linked to other wildlife traffickers operating in Thailand.

A suspect identified as Surasak Bunthienthong was arrested following the rescue of four live tigers near Bangkok. Photo courtesy of FREELAND Foundation.

The captive tigers cannot be released into the wild and have been transferred to a government care center, where they will live out their lives under the care of veterinarians from the National Parks Department.

Thailand’s captive tiger situation is similar to Vietnam and China — illegal tiger trade is conducted via loopholes in the CITES permit system.

Although 880 tigers in 21 zoos are currently registered with the country’s Department of National Parks, the “actual number of tigers in private hands is believed to be much higher” and represents a significant challenge to curbing the illegal trade in tigers. One such challenge is Thailand’s notorious “Tiger Temple”, suspected of supplying tigers to the illegal market while operating under the guise of a tourist attraction.

Although 880 tigers in 21 zoos are currently registered with the Thailand’s Department of National Parks, the “actual number of tigers in private hands is believed to be much higher” and represents a significant challenge to curbing the illegal trade in tigers. Photo courtesy of FREELAND Foundation.

“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.

Captive breeding of Asian big cats is expected to be on the agenda in March 2013, when CITES CoP16 is held in Bangkok, Thailand.

CITES CoP16 will be held in March 2013, in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo courtesy of FREELAND Foundation.

Earlier this month, the CITES Secretariat requested that “all Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale” report the following by September 25th, 2012:

i) all measures taken to comply with Resolution Conf. 12.5 (Rev. CoP15), in relation to all species of Asian big cats;

ii) stockpiles of captive-bred or confiscated tiger body parts and derivatives; and

iii) any actions proposed to deal with the stockpiles.

The Parties are also requested to “fully implement Decision 14.69”, which states that “measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers” should be implemented and that “tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.”


Source: FREELAND Foundation. Photos © and courtesy of FREELAND Foundation.

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, and I work as an independent Wildlife Trade and Communication Design Consultant. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I collaborate with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Wildlife Trade and Trafficking Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.