The zoo’s owner, Mr Suriya Tanthaweewong, has confirmed that he intends to close the zoo permanently, largely due to the economic fall-out from the COVID-19 situation.
However, given the current restrictions due to the island wide lockdown, it is not possible to immediately relocate the animals who have to be kept at the premises until the situation improves.
This led to claims that the animals had been abandoned without food or care with several reports and pictures surfacing on social media platforms of animals appearing in a state of poor and deteriorated health. One picture of a seemingly malnourished tiger drew particular disdain and criticism. (See story here).
Following the inspection yesterday, authorities and officials* had responded by stating they were satisfied the animals were in “perfect condition.” (See story here).
“In the past, we have inspected the animal welfare arrangements periodically as per directives,” commented Mr Manas Thepparuk, Chief of Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), Phuket Province.
“And from today’s inspection, looking at the general conditions from the outside, all animals are perfect, whether it is elephants, tigers, bears, deer, goats, as well as other animals that are used as pets for performances,” Mr Manas added.
“The place is organized in accordance with animal welfare principles, with sufficient food sources and water sources. But at this time there was a problem with food movement due to a district being closed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“The DLD office will support by providing hay and other meats, and will coordinate with poultry farms to help feed the animals.
"Actually, the Phuket Zoo has arranged enough but we then added more. This zoo does not have problems with animal food management. There are plans for daily feeding on a regular basis and the animals are very healthy,“ Mr Manat concluded.
Piyawat Sukon, Chief of Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Conservation Centre said he had conferred with the owner of the zoo, Mr Suriya Tanthaweewong, who confirmed that the animals would be moved to a new location once the COVID-19 situation had abated but that could not be done immediately due to the restrictions.
In the meantime Mr Suriya confirmed he would be taking care of all the animals food and other related matters.
“This zoo has been operating since 1996,” explained Mr Suriya. “We had encountered an operating loss and then this year the COVID-19 epidemic hit. As a result the zoo must be temporarily closed in accordance with government measures. Following further thought and review it has been decided to close the business permanently.
"In the meantime the zoo still takes care of all the animals as usual since the service is not closed. We feed the animals meals two times a day. Cleaning of cages takes place every other day due to us not being open for business to the public.
“We have been out of service for almost 20 days. Various zoos have been contacted and we will re-house the animals once the situation allows,” added Mr Suriya.
“If people wish to support the feeding of the animals I am very happy to allow it. We can be contacted for further details on telephone number 061-8259225,” he concluded.
According to Mr Piyawat, unless the zoo was ordered closed by wildlife officials and its permit revoked by force, the owner of Phuket Zoo is legally able to reopen another zoo at a later date.
He also explained that in legal terms even if the current owner was refused a new permit at a later date, the owner may be involved in a zoo granted permission to open to another person.
* The collective that visited the Zoo and inspected conditions and the animals included Mr Manas Thepparuk, Chief of Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD), Phuket Province; Mr. Wattanapong Suksai, Director of Phuket Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office; Pongchart Chouehorm, Chief of the Nature and Wildlife Education Centre at Khao Phra Thaew, Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Conservation Centre Chief Piyawat Sukon and officers from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP).