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Phuket Opinion: Cruelty is in the eye of the beholder

Phuket Opinion: Cruelty is in the eye of the beholder

PHUKET: Officials this week clearing Phuket Zoo of any allegations of animal cruelty hardly came as a surprise. They have been cleared before, and not just in the death of three-year-old baby elephant Jumbo just last month.

opiniontourismanimalsenvironmentnatural-resourceseconomicscultureChinesecrime
By The Phuket News

Sunday 23 June 2019, 09:00AM


Natawon Jumlonggard, Chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), views the poster promoting the B300 fee to have your photo taken with a wild animal kept at Phuket Zoo. Photo: PR Dept

Natawon Jumlonggard, Chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), views the poster promoting the B300 fee to have your photo taken with a wild animal kept at Phuket Zoo. Photo: PR Dept

 Phuket Zoo never faced any charges for the highly-publicised death of Milo the orangutan in 2016 – even though the zoo never had a permit for her and even dumped her in the jungle near the Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Conservation Centre in Thalang before officials “had the chance” to find her being kept at the zoo.

In fact, Phuket Zoo has never faced any harsh action for any impropriety whatsoever.

A key factor in the inspecting officials’ attitudes this week was probably best summed up by Natawon Jumlonggard, Chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE).

“In the past, there have been continual reports of animal cruelty with people taking photos and (video) recordings of animals, but depending on the individual’s perspective it may or may not be regarded as animal cruelty,” he said.

As Zoo Manager Pichai Sakunsorn pointed out, tourists having their photos taken with the animals is one of the zoo’s three main revenue streams. If visitors to the zoo objected so much, they simply wouldn’t pay to have their photos taken with them.

Here we hit the crossroads: many of the visitors to Phuket are not from Western countries.

National Geographic in concluding its special cover story for June “Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism” hit the nail on the head. Use social media to spread the word about whether an animal tourism venue is worthy of supporting or not, and send the message by not giving them any money.

For the likes of Phuket Zoo, the message has been loud and clear for English speakers for years – animal welfare must come first – but for Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern and now Indian visitors, that battle is just beginning.

Worse, the truth is that the bus loads of tourists brought to the zoo have no idea what they will be shown until they arrive and see it for themselves. By that time the zoo has already reaped the fees for entry tickets paid as part of the tour – the deal is done before the tourists have even seen what lays behind Phuket Zoo’s walls.

To be sure, more needs to be done to make sure all visitors know where their money is going when it comes to Phuket Zoo before they hand it over to a tour operator.

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Timothy | 24 June 2019 - 10:26:56

These wildlife officials are a complete joke....How are they even in their positions? They obviously do not care about animals...They are obviously too stupid to know how  animals should be treated. The Zoo could serve barbecue Tiger in their restaurant and it wouldn't be a problem for them...No charges ever laid. Not even in the death of Milo. Disgusting. 

CaptainJack69 | 23 June 2019 - 21:26:48

Some would say all zoo's are cruel. Others point to the conservation benefits of people engaging with the animals they know need their help and to a zoo's ability to help animals that would otherwise perish. It's a debate that will go on and on. But Phuket Zoo? Urghh! It's not educating people or saving animals.

Kurt | 23 June 2019 - 09:08:58

Thai Animal Officialdom has a thick skin when it come to protect their adagio..."Money, money first"..! They lie and deny their ways to hide the dark truth just to fill the money coffers from which of course also find the brown envelopes their way.  300 thb For a photo with a sedated/drugged 'wild' animal? A bloody shame.

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