The carcasses of 40 tiger cubs have been found in a freezer during a raid on Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Province, west of Bangkok. The bodies of the baby tigers were discovered alongside that of a binturong, a protected species commonly known as a bearcat, and other animal parts.

There are fears that tiger body parts may have been sold for use in traditional Chinese medicine. The cubs were found in a freezer in a kitchen area, Adisorn Nuchdamrong, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, told Reuters. "They must be of some value for the temple to keep them. But for what is beyond me," he said.

Thailand Tiger Temple
A dead tiger cub is held up by an official after authorities found 40 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer during a raid on the controversial Tiger TempleDaily News/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
Thai wildlife officers collect samples for DNA testing from the carcasses of 40 tiger cubs found undeclared at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger TempleDario Pignatelli/Getty Images

The remains will be DNA tested, as authorities suspect monks at the Buddhist temple have been involved in illegal breeding and trafficking of the animals. Thai wildlife authorities have started removing the temple's 137 surviving tigers. The director of Thailand's Wildlife Conservation Office, Teunjai Noochdumrong, said that over the past two days, 40 tigers had been tranquillised and removed. They are being taken to government animal shelters elsewhere in the country. She said they hope to move 20 tigers a day, or more if the weather is cool.

Thailand Tiger Temple
A tiger peers through the bars of its cage at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger TempleDario Pignatelli/Getty Images
Thailand Tiger Temple
A tiger yawns before the officials start moving big cats out of Thailand's controversial Tiger TempleChaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
A Thai DNP veterinarian officer holds the head of a sedated tiger at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger TempleDario Pignatelli/Getty Images
Thailand Tiger Temple
Wildlife officials install a tunnel of cages to lure a tiger out of an enclosureChristophe Archambault/AFP
Thailand Tiger Temple
Wildlife officers carry a sedated tiger from its cage at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger TempleDario Pignatelli/Getty Images
Thailand Tiger Temple
Thai wildlife officers load a sedated tiger on to a truck at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger TempleDario Pignatelli/Getty Images
Thailand Tiger Temple
Thai wildlife officials carry a tiger on a stretcher as they remove it from an enclosure after it was anaesthetisedChristophe Archambault/AFP

Animal rights activists have long accused the temple of mistreating the tigers. The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Buddhist temple operated as an admission-charging zoo, allowing tourists to pose with the big cats and bottle-feed the cubs. Some visitors have said the animals can appear drugged. The temple denies the accusations.

Thailand Tiger Temple
A Buddhist monk is pictured playing with tigers at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Province in February 2015Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
A foreign tourist is pictured posing for a photo with a tiger in 2005Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP
Thailand Tiger Temple
A man is seen playing with tigers during a show at the tiger temple in Kanchanaburi Province, in 2012Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP
Thailand Tiger Temple
A Buddhist monk is pictured with a tiger at the Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, otherwise known as Tiger Temple, in February 2015Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
A man is pictured playing with a tiger during a show four tourists at the temple in 2005Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP
Thailand Tiger Temple
A plate with a tiger's food is seen at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi ProvinceChaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
A tourist poses next to a tiger before officials start moving the big cats from Thailand's controversial Tiger TempleChaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
Tigers are seen behind a fence at the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi Province, in February 2016Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
Thailand Tiger Temple
A volunteer opens a cage in which a tiger is eating at the Wat Pa Luang Ta BuaAthit Perawongmetha/Reuters

The monks had resisted attempts to take the tigers away, but they relented after police obtained a court order to carry out the action. "There was some resistance from the community, they didn't understand why we were taking [the tigers] from the temple when they look so peaceful and fine at the temple," said Teunjai. "We tried talking to them, explaining to them that the tigers belong to the country." The monks still don't understand, but at least did not put up physical resistance, she said.