The rotting corpses of 40 tiger cubs were discovered in the freezer of a Buddhist temple that was operating as a petting zoo for international tourists, wildlife officials in Thailand said Wednesday.
The dead baby tigers were piled in a freezer where food was kept, authorities said. The so-called Tiger Temple was under investigation for suspected trafficking and abuse, Reuters reported.
The remote site in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, was a tourist destination where visitors paid a fee to bottle-feed cubs and pet the tigers.
Monks have been fighting with wildlife officials over efforts to bring the big cats under government control.
Officials raided the site on Monday and are in the process of sedating and removing 61 live tigers, the news agency reported. Some 76 animals remain.
"Foreign volunteers at the temple today told us about it and showed us the freezer. Perhaps they felt what the temple is doing isn't right," said Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks.
"They must be of some value for the temple to keep them. But for what is beyond me," he said.
On its Facebook page, the temple said the cub carcasses had been kept, instead of cremated, at the instructions of a vet and that wildlife officials knew about the dead cubs.
The monks denied any wrongdoing.
Officials wearing masks displayed the fly-covered bodies, along with the corpse of a Binturong, and endangered species also known as a bearcat.
Thailand is a hub for illegal trafficking of wildlife and forest products including endangered species, exotic birds, mammals and reptiles, the wire service said.