For many years, tigers had been a tourist hotspot at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.
Tourists could pay to take a photo with the tigers and even feed the cubs.
In 2016, scores of dead cubs were discovered in freezers, leading to accusations that the temple was partaking in illegal wildlife trade.
Currently, tigers are an endangered species with a world population of under 4,000.
The remaining 147 tigers were confiscated from the temple and sent to government-run wildlife sanctuaries.
Since then, 86 of the 147 rescued tigers have died.
Many of these tigers were susceptible to respiratory failure from infection.
The vulnerability of these tigers was blamed on the inbreeding conducted in the temple. There were originally just six tigers at the temple.
The Head of the Department’s Wildlife Health Management Division, Patarapol Maneeorn, stated that many of these tigers were the result of inbreeding. This has severe consequences for the health of these tigers.
The DNA of all 147 confiscated tigers could be traced to six tigers who were the original breeding stock … [Inbreeding] affects their well-being, resulting in disabilities and weakened health conditions. And when they have weakened genetic traits, they also have problems with their immune system as well.
These tigers suffered from respiratory problems and laryngeal paralysis.
Concern has been raised as to whether captivity exacerbated the tiger’s living conditions.
The rescued tigers were kept in small cages before being incorporated into wildlife sanctuaries.
The temple has blamed the government for the deaths of these tigers and denied allegations of inbreeding.
Meanwhile, Patarapol has stated that Thai authorities will provide the best care possible for the remaining tigers.