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Police suspect illegal tiger meat haul came from zoo

Police are gathering evidence against a tiger zoo they suspect is the source of 400kg of tiger meat found in a house in Bangkok’s Min Buri district on Saturday.

Pol Col Kiattipong Khawsamang, deputy commander of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, said police believed the carcasses of two male tigers found at the house came from a tiger zoo in Chon Buri’s Si Racha district, but they have not yet obtained evidence.

“We are waiting to interrogate the owner of the tiger meat,” Pol Col Kiattipong said. “We will collect all necessary information, including the phone numbers of his contacts.”

He said the alleged tiger meat owner, Tananuwat Boonperm, alias Od Bang Kroui, kept records relating to the illegal wildlife trade.

The tiger zoo in Si Racha was linked to a previous case when 11 tiger carcasses were found in Nakhon Phanom in 2008.

People caught with the tiger meat at the time claimed it came from the Si Racha zoo. Investigators, however, could not prosecute the farm due to insufficient evidence, he said.

The officer said the tiger population at the zoo was growing rapidly and the daily food bill was 2,000 baht.

Pol Col Kiattipong said that while the Si Racha tiger zoo was the prime suspect in the case, investigators are also looking at a possible link to another tiger zoo in Suphan Buri.

The police on Saturday arrested seven people at an underground slaughterhouse in the Bang Chan area of Min Buri after they found 400kg of tiger meat along with the carcasses and parts of other wild animals including zebras, an elephant, crocodiles and a wild buffalo.

The suspects claimed the tiger meat belonged to Mr Tananuwat.

Police said they searched Mr Tananuwat’s house in Nonthaburi but found nothing illegal. The suspect, who is still at large, is expected to turn himself in to the police today.

Meanwhile, another police team raided a taxidermist in Phraya Suren Soi 12 in Bangkok’s Khlong Sam Wa district and seized 18kg of tiger meat along with the carcasses of turtles, a deer and a crocodile.

Pol Col Dhewan Mangkhlachartkul of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division said he was checking whether the taxidermist has a licence to own wildlife animals. If not, he would be charged with illegal possession of wildlife.

The taxidermist, Prasit Ruengsri, insisted he had licences to possess all the animal carcasses and meat and it all came from farms. He said the tiger meat was from a white tiger which had died in Bueng Chawak Zoo in Suphan Buri.

Kannita Ouitavon, senior scientist of Wildlife Forensic Unit, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said officials had taken samples from the seized meat for DNA tests. The results, which are expected in the next few days, might help investigators identify the farms the meat was from.

Her unit has no DNA database of local tiger farms.

About 30 tiger zoos or farms are open nationwide with a combined tiger population of about 1,000.

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