Wildlife authorities have begun removing tigers from the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province west of Bangkok.
Monks at the Buddhist temple have been accused of illegally breeding tigers and animal trafficking. The popular tourist destination had been resisting official efforts to take away the animals for years. But this time the authorities had no intention of letting the monks get away with it.
"We have a court warrant this time, unlike previous times when we only asked for the temple's cooperation, which did not work," said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks.
"Yesterday was mayhem," he added. "When our vet team arrived, there were tigers roaming around everywhere."
"Looks like the temple intentionally let these tigers out, trying to obstruct our work."
The 1,000 personnel, armed with tranquilizer guns, will continue with the operation for a week until all the tigers are captured.
"There is nothing illegal and dangerous at all," maintains Suthipong Pakcharoong, the vice president of the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Temple Foundation. "If they do like this, it would affect the tourism industry."
The place of worship was founded in 1994 as a forest temple and sanctuary for wild animals that became more of a tourist attraction than anything else. Tourists pay a fee to pet the tigers, take pictures with them and even bottle-feed the cubs.
There have also been hints that the tigers are kept drugged by the monks. Recently, the temple has also been accused of illegal trade in tigers.