AFTER what began as a big showdown, the Tiger Temple in Kancha-naburi and wildlife officials finally found middle ground yesterday by agreeing that the 146 tigers would be kept in the temple compound but would be seen as state assets.
Each tiger will be registered and electronically tagged.
However, the agreement between Wat Pa Luang Ta Maha Bua and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) does not include the Asian white-chested bear and hornbills - both endangered and protected species. The department will still proceed with taking action over the charge of possessing protected species against the temple.
In a joint statement yesterday, the temple and its foundation are required to ensure there is no cross-breeding of Bengal tigers as per DNP regulations. The two sides have also agreed that the search for three missing tigers will continue.
An agreement has also been made on three conditions: The offspring of all tigers will be registered and considered state assets; they can't be exploited for commercial purposes; and registration and micro-chipping of all tigers will be made mandatory.
Deputy DNP director-general Adisorn Nuchdamrong said the department did not mean to snatch away the tigers as it did a few weeks ago. "We just wanted to do the right thing according to law," he said, adding that the temple should apply for a licence for operating a zoo and should hire adequate staff to provide care for the tigers. He said it should also control the tiger population.
DNP officials and temple staff did a headcount of the tigers yesterday, with the animals divided in groups of four and tied to a tree to allow officials to scan their microchips.
Provincial Governor Wanchai O-sukhonthip said the bears and the hornbills would not be moved away from the temple, as part of the agreement, but did not refer to DNP's plan to proceed with action in this regard.
General Niphat Thonglek, an adviser to the National Legislative Assembly on wildlife and environment protection, who mediated talks between the two sides, said he welcomed the development.