Department of National Parks Wildlife and Plant Concervation has asked Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Foundation - the body overseeing the "Tiger Temple" in Kanchanaburi - to hand over 146 tigers to authorities this coming Friday.
A special working group has been set up by the department to deal with the transfer of the tigers.
Department director general Nipon Chotibal said parks officials had sent a request to the foundation to seek co-operation in transferring the tigers so they can be nurtured in proper facilities. All of the 146 tigers are due to be relocated on April 24.
Nipon said the tigers would be checked with the DNP database, their health checked and then moved to Khao Son and Khao Pratabchang wildlife breeding centres in Ratchaburi.
"There will be an inspection of microchips - [information from] which the temple's veterinarian handed to the department - to check whether three tigers are missing [as reported recently]. If the three tigers are really missing, someone will be punished, as the department has already informed the police," he revealed.
Nipon admitted he was concerned about the tiger transfer this Friday - after a protest by monks and volunteers at the temple two weeks ago when bears were found and removed by officials. A special working group, consisting of local administration authorities, soldiers, police, veterinarians and officers from the National Office of Buddhism, has been set up to counter any incorrect accusations being made against the department, or any misunderstanding about the six bears that were relocated to government facilities on April 3.
The department's deputy director general Adisorn Noochdamrong was appointed head of the working group.
The Wildlife Conservation Office has said Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua does not have a proper licence to care for wild animals, as the temple is not a public zoo.
"As Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua does not have proper cages and clear animal nurturing facilities, we can see that the temple has no intention to open as a public zoo. Therefore, they did not receive a reply when they sought a licence extension from the department and their [former] licence is no longer valid," Wildlife Conservation Office director Tuanjai Nujdamrong said.
Tuanjai suggested that the temple had no right to raise bears, which it claimed were given to them. He said they had to inform the department and sign an agreement if they wanted to do that.
The six bears seized from the temple are now at Bang Lamung breeding centre in Chon Buri province.
Meanwhile, representatives of Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua have asked the authorities to return all seized animals - the bears and hornbills found there (and removed because they were unregistered).
They said the animals had belonged to the temple zoo since its opening in 2008 and that they had been granted a licence extension in 2013. The temple also claimed that according to Wild Animal Preservation and Protection Act if there is no reply to its request to extend its licence within 60 days, it could regard that as "acceptance".
Yesterday 30 people from Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua protested in front of the wildlife breeding facility in Ban Lamung in Chon Buri and called for the six bears to be returned to the border temple.
Director of the second conservation area administrative office (Sri Racha), Yu Senatham, and Bang Lamung breeding centre head Photsawat Chotwatpongchai and local officials explained to the protesters that they could not return the bears because the temple does not have a licence to keep them, and the case is not over.
Suphitphong Pakjarung, vice president of Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua Foundation, said he did not know temple followers protested at Bang Lamung breeding centre. He said the temple had many followers.