More than half of the tigers that were rescued from a "tiger temple" have died from a viral disease thanks to inbreeding, media reports say.

The temple opened two decades ago near Bangkok and grew into a popular and profitable tourist attraction.

The monks were discovered to have been trafficking tigers. Photo / Instagram
The monks were discovered to have been trafficking tigers. Photo / Instagram

Tourists took selfies with drugged tigers and paid to bottle feed cubs at the so-called "Buddhist temple". Traditionally Buddhists try to do no harm (or as little harm as possible) to animals.

The temple was long accused of breeding and trafficking tigers and other wildlife. After years of failed interventions, wildlife officials raided it in 2016 following several standoffs with temple monks.

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"Relax".. If only. Photo / Instagram

The removed 147 tigers and discovered tiger pelts, "energy drinks" made from tiger, amulets made from their skins and dozens of dead tiger cubs kept in jars.

The confiscated animals were taken to state sanctuaries but it was discovered that they were vulnerable to canine distemper virus, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Officials uncovered tiger pelts,
Officials uncovered tiger pelts, "energy drinks" made from tiger, amulets made from their skins and dozens of dead tiger cubs kept in jars in their raids. Photo / Instagram

"They had no immune system due to inbreeding," the department's deputy director-general, Prakit Vongsrivattanakul, told MCOT.

"We treated them as symptoms came up," Prakit said.

 Thai PBS says 86 of the 147 rescued animals have died. Photo / Instagram
Thai PBS says 86 of the 147 rescued animals have died. Photo / Instagram

Prakit did not give a figure for the number of tigers that had died but public service broadcaster Thai PBS reported that the toll was 86 of the 147 rescued animals.