A veterinary team from the wildlife forensic unit takes blood samples to trace the DNA of one of 16 tigers cubs seized from smugglers on October 26, 2012, in Thailand. Photo: AFP/World Wildlife Fund

Questions have been raised about the many tiger farms in Thailand with one major international organization asking an NGO to investigate and make a public report on the numbers of big cats in captivity.

The illegal trade in tigers and their body parts has long been rampant in Thailand, despite authorities launching regular crackdowns.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, commonly known at CITES, suspects the illegal trade in tigers is still flourishing in Thailand, but Thai authorities say they guarantee all the questions raised by the organization will be answered. 

On Wednesday, Cites announced it will commission a report on the tiger population in Thailand and raised questions about tiger farms and breeding tigers, as many farms do not allow visitors yet still generate enough income to raise more than 100 of the big cats. 

Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act of 2003 had an impunity clause for tiger farm owners registering the animals they raised, creating a loophole in counting tiger populations in farms.

Now the Thai government has proposed a new law it says will help manage and control the number of tigers in farms in the country.

The government says there also needs to be checks on tigers imported into Thailand. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation now takes tiger’s blood and stores the DNA. The database helps track information about tiger farms in case there are any tigers found to be trafficked. 

The department closed the infamous Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi in 2016. The Tiger Temple owned 147 tigers and had been illegally breeding, trading and selling tiger parts. According to Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach, a Senior Wildlife Consultant of World Animal Protection, tiger farms do not help conserve tiger species but endanger wildlife. 

The new Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act is still under consideration by the Office of the Council of State, and is aimed at help officials in term of making arrests and investigations. The current law carries penalties of four years in jail and a 40,000 baht fine. 

There are now estimated to be only 400 tigers left in the wild in Thailand, according to the World Wildlife Fund Thailand. 

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