Big cats removed from Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple

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Tiger Temple Thailand remove cats
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Big cats removed from Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple
A sedated tiger is stretchered as officials start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A tourist poses next to a tiger before officials start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A tiger yawns before the officials start moving them from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A Buddhist monk walks past a tiger before officials start moving them from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A sedated tiger is seen in a cage as officials start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Officials prepare weapons with a sedation as they start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Officials try to lead a tiger into a cage as they start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A sedated tiger is stretchered as officials start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A sedated tiger is stretchered as officials start moving tigers from Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple, a popular tourist destination which has come under fire in recent years over the welfare of its big cats in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Thai wildlife officials install a tunnel of cages to capture a tiger and remove it from an enclosure at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016. Thai wildlife officials armed with a court order on May 30 resumed the treacherous process of moving tigers from a controversial temple which draws tourists as a petting zoo, but stands accused of selling off the big cats for slaughter. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)
Thai wildlife officials load a cage containing a tiger onto a truck after they removed it from an enclosure at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016. Thai wildlife officials armed with a court order on May 30 resumed the treacherous process of moving tigers from a controversial temple which draws tourists as a petting zoo, but stands accused of selling off the big cats for slaughter. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)
A tiger is seen in an enclosure at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand on May 30, 2016. Thai wildlife officials armed with a court order on May 30 resumed the treacherous process of moving tigers from a controversial temple which draws tourists as a petting zoo, but stands accused of selling off the big cats for slaughter. / AFP / CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo provided by the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, cages are prepared for the removal of tigers at the "Tiger Temple" in Saiyok district in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 30, 2016. Wildlife officials have begun removing some of the 137 tigers held at the Buddhist temple after accusations that their caretakers were involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals, as well as neglected them. (Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand via AP)
In this photo provided by the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, a tiger looks out of a cage at the "Tiger Temple" in Saiyok district in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 30, 2016. Wildlife officials have begun removing some of the 137 tigers held at the Buddhist temple after accusations that their caretakers were involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals, as well as neglected them. (Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand via AP)
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KANCHANABURI, Thailand, May 30 (Reuters) - Wildlife authorities in Thailand on Monday raided a Buddhist temple where tigers are kept, taking away three of the animals and vowing to confiscate scores more in response to global pressure over wildlife trafficking.

The Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok has more than 100 tigers and has become a tourist destination where visitors take selfies with tigers and bottle-feed their cubs.

The temple promotes itself as a wildlife sanctuary, but in recent years it has been investigated for suspected links to wildlife trafficking and animal abuse.

Wildlife activists have accused the temple's monks of illegally breeding tigers, while some visitors have said the animals can appear drugged. The temple denies the accusations.

Monday's raid was the latest move by authorities in a tug-of-war since 2001 to bring the tigers under state control.

Photos of the tourist attraction before it was dismantled:

18 PHOTOS
Thailand's tiger temple
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Big cats removed from Thailand's infamous Tiger Temple
A tourist poses for picture at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Tigers are seen behind a fence at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A plate with a tiger's food is seen at the Tigers Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
A tiger is seen at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A tiger is seen in a cage at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A tiger jumps while it is being trained at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Trainers walk with tigers at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A trainer feeds a tiger at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Tigers play at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Tigers swim while being trained at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A tiger jumps while it is trained at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A tiger jumps while it is being trained at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Tigers are chained to trees at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Volunteers walk with a tiger on leash during a head count at the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, otherwise known as the Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, April 24, 2015. Thai officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks on Friday inspected microchips in the tigers held captivity at the popular Tiger Temple, home to more than 100 tigers, to update their database. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A volunteer plays with a tiger during a head count at the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, otherwise known as the Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, April 24, 2015. Thai officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks on Friday inspected microchips in the tigers held captivity at the popular Tiger Temple, home to more than 100 tigers, to update their database. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
An official scans a microchip on a tiger during a head count at the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, otherwise known as the Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, April 24, 2015. Thai officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks on Friday inspected microchips in the tigers held captivity at the popular Tiger Temple, home to more than 100 tigers, to update their database. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
A tiger lies on the ground during a head count at the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, otherwise known as the Tiger Temple, in Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, April 24, 2015. Thai officials from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks on Friday inspected microchips in the tigers held captivity at the popular Tiger Temple, home to more than 100 tigers, to update their database. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
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Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, said the team had been able to confiscate the tigers thanks to a warrant obtained a few hours before the operation.

"We have a court warrant this time, unlike previous times, when we only asked for the temple's cooperation, which did not work," Adisorn told Reuters.

"International pressure concerning illegal wildlife trafficking is also part of why we're acting now."

Officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said they planned to confiscate and remove more tigers from the temple on Tuesday and send them to a state-owned sanctuary.

Previous attempts to inspect the tigers have largely been blocked by the temple's abbots but in January and February wildlife officials removed 10 of the tigers.

Thailand has long been a hub for the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products, including ivory. Exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, some of them endangered species, can often be found on sale in markets.

The government introduced new animal welfare laws in 2015 aimed at curbing animal abuse, but activists accuse authorities of not enforcing the legislation properly.

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