Less than a year after Thailand's "Tiger Temple" was shut down amid allegations of illegal breeding and animal trafficking, the company behind the infamous tourist attraction is preparing to open a new tiger facility, warns an international animal welfare group. 

According to World Animal Protection, construction is already underway at the new site in Kanchanaburi in the west of Thailand.

"Our recent investigation has uncovered the shocking news that the company ... has changed its name to Golden Tiger (Thailand) Co. Ltd. and is planning to open a new tiger entertainment attraction," said the group in a news release. 

The original facility near Bangkok was closed down in late May of 2016 when police swooped in to remove all of its 137 big cats, while also uncovering grisly finds that included 40 cub carcasses preserved in a freezer. More than 20 people, including three Buddhist monks, were charged with wildlife trafficking.

For years leading up to its shutdown, the tourist attraction – which allowed visitors to pet and bottle-feed cubs, as well as to pose for photographs with the big cats and resident monks – had been mired in controversy, with multiple animal welfare groups and NGOs accusing it of animal cruelty, illegal breeding and even wildlife trafficking. 

World Animal Protection claims the new offshoot business has already secured a provisional zoo licence, and could obtain a full one within six months if it meets a list of conditions relating to veterinary care and the size of its enclosures. This could allow it to not only house but also breed the bigs cats.  

"Given the appalling conditions at the former Tiger Temple, which ultimately led to its closure, we're urging the Thai government not to activate the full zoo license needed for another tiger entertainment venue to be opened," the group said.

Authorities in Thailand are still investigating allegations of illegal wildlife trade at the original facility.

"Tiger farms have nothing to do with conservation – it just brings extreme suffering to these wild animals whilst living in appalling conditions. These venues need to be stopped in their tracks because they clearly have links to the dark side of wildlife trafficking rings," said the group's senior wildlife and veterinary advisor Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach.

We'll bring you updates to this story as it develops.


Top header image: Brian Dewey, Flickr