- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

BANGKOK (AP) - Thai police stopped a truck Thursday carrying two tiger skins and other animal parts as it was leaving a Buddhist temple where monks have been accused of being involved in illegal wildlife trafficking, a police officer said.

Two men in the truck were arrested and charged with possession of illegal wildlife, said police Col. Bandith Meungsukhum. He said a monk traveling with them will be arrested once he is defrocked.

The truck was also carrying more than 700 vials containing tiger skin as well as many tiger teeth hidden in a suitcase, said Teunchai Noochdumrong, director of the government’s wildlife conservation office. Such vials are typically used as good luck charms.

The arrests come a day after 40 dead tiger cubs were found in a freezer at the temple. After that discovery, officials decided to thoroughly search all vehicles and people going in and out of the temple, she said.

“I am quite shocked,” Teunchai said. “We all have heard concerns and allegations about this temple. I would never have thought they would be so blatant.”

An adult tiger skin can fetch anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000, according to Steve Galster, the director of Freeland, an organization that fights wildlife trafficking.

Authorities this week have been transferring the temple’s 137 tigers to animal shelters after obtaining a court order.

The temple in Kanchanaburi, in western Thailand, is a popular tourist attraction that charged admission for visitors to take photos with tigers.

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