The #SaveMilo campaign, listed on Change.org, saw signatures skyrocket last week as the campaign gained international momentum, while as recently as Monday (Feb 15), a tourist visiting Phuket Zoo posted a photo of himself posing with Milo on his Facebook page.
Yet the campaign at this stage is aimed at only improving Milo’s health, and her living conditions, as regular visitors are concerned that she is unhealthy and depressed.
Key campaigner Vicki Kiely told The Phuket News, “I first visited her (Milo) years ago, but went back about five months ago, when I saw where she lived and how grossly overweight she was.
“She sleeps in a pitch black concrete cell under the steps of where the monkey show is and she gets limited hours to daylight… Her teeth are bad and you can see she is desperately depressed. She folds her arms in boredom and disgust at the tourists.”
Ms Kiely has attempted to bring Milo’s condition to the zoo management, but to no avail.
“I email the zoo frequently asking may I work with her to improve her conditions and in turn I hoped I could improve the conditions of all the animals in there. She is the priority now, however, for me, as she is in the worst state.
“Ideally I would love if I could sit down and talk with the zoo owners, perhaps getting them to retire Milo. We have a sanctuary that will take her immediately in Indonesia.”
In the email repeatedly sent to Phuket Zoo Manager, Surapong Chanthaweewong, Ms Kiely also explained expert advice would be available to assist the zoo in improving Milo’s state and offered help to build an improved enclosure.
Repeated attempts by The Phuket News have failed to elicit any formal response from the zoo. Reporters were even turned away from the front gate when attempting to present simple questions directed to Mr Surapong, who has not replied to any emails, messages or phone calls made.
Yet Piyawat Sukon, who as Chief of the Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Office in Thalang is responsible for the welfare of wildlife animals in Phuket and neighbouring provinces, said he had no knowledge of any orangutan in Phuket.
“Since learning of this, I have checked with our regional head office in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, and they have no records of any orangutans legally registered to be kept at Phuket Zoo,” he added.
“In order for anyone to legally keep an orangutan in Phuket, they must first be issued a permit from the 5th Area office of the Department of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.
“From our initial investigation and after discussing this issue with them, Phuket Zoo seems suspicious and we are continuing our investigation.
“We are also involving the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, as orangutans are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” Mr Piyawat added.
Wildlife officer Songchai Tongboonyang told The Phuket News that he already had inspected Phuket Zoo just earlier this month.
“But that was to investigate complaints about the tigers there. I had no idea there was an orangutan at the zoo, too. I thought all the orangutans in Phuket had already been shipped back to Indonesia,” he said.
“Regardless, my report on that investigation has already been filed with Mr Piyawat,” he said.