More than half of 147 tigers confiscated from a controversial Thai temple have died, according to park officials, who have blamed genetic problems linked to inbreeding.

The Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple in the western province of Kanchanaburi offered tourists the opportunity to take photographs alongside a tiger.

However, park officials began removing the big cats in 2016, amid allegations of mismanagement and animal exploitation.

Dozens of dead cubs were found in freezers, sparking claims the carcasses were being sold. Tiger parts can fetch enormous sums of money in China and Vietnam, where they are believed by some to have medicinal properties.

The surviving adult tigers were taken to two breeding stations in the nearby Ratchaburi province, but only 61 of the 147 have so far survived.

"It could be linked to inbreeding," Pattarapol Maneeon, of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said.

"They had genetic problems which posed risks to body and immune system."

Another department official, Sunthorn Chaiwattana, said most of the tigers were already distressed following their transportation and change of location.

Many of the tigers are believed to have suffered from tongue paralysis, breathing problems, and a lack of appetite.

Thai vets check on a sedated tiger before it is removed from the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple

Conservationists have questioned whether authorities looked after the seized animals properly.

"To be very honest, who would be ready to take in so many tigers at once?" said Edwin Wiek, founder of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.

He added that conditions at the enclosures were "not good enough to house so many tigers, and the set up was wrong".

Animal rights groups have long criticised the wildlife tourism industry in Thailand.