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No animal cruelty at Phuket Zoo, say officials

No animal cruelty at Phuket Zoo, say officials

PHUKET: Phuket wildlife officials have declared that Phuket Zoo has been cleared of any allegations of animal cruelty following an inspection of the aged tourism attraction today (June 17).

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By The Phuket News

Monday 17 June 2019, 07:03PM


Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana ordered inspection in response to National Geographic posting on its official Instagram account a photo of a tiger chained on a podium, pacing back and forth in only metres of space. (See here.)

The National Geographic post on Instagram, without alleging that Phuket Zoo had conducted the practice, also noted, “Tigers are often declawed and/or drugged to make them safer for interacting with tourists.”

The post, which has already gained more than 1 million Likes (see here), also noted in direct reference to Phuket Zoo, “Photos here are 300 Baht (or about $9).”

Conducting the inspection today were Natawon Jumlonggard, Chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE); Manas Thepparuk, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD); and Pongchart Chouehorm, Chief of the Natural and Wildlife Education Centre at the Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area in Thalang.

After the inspection, Mr Natawon declared to the press, “No evidence of animal cruelty has been found.”

“Officers from the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conversation (DNP) inspected the zoo, given advice about how to treat animals, and cautioned the owner to do things correctly and make a good image of Phuket for tourists,” Mr Natawon said.

“The zoo’s owner agreed and said he understood,” he added.

Regarding complaints of animals being medicated so that they would be placid enough for tourists to have their photos taken with them, Mr Natawon said, “Animals that have been medicated are sleepy, drowsy, the animals here show no such effects. They are not likely to have been medicated.”

Regarding wild animals being chained to tight restrictions Mr Natawon said his officers wanted to focus on safety.

“The province’s governing officers are aware of such issues and have spoken with staff at the zoo to strictly focus on the best care of all animals in terms of both safety measures and hygiene,” he said.

“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,” Mr Natawon said.

“From the examining of the actual conditions here, we have found no evidence of animal cruelty here. The results of the inspection is that there are no sick or drowsy animals,” he said.

Phuket Zoo today being cleared of allegations of animal cruelty follows the zoo being exonerated of any ill treatment of three-year-old baby elephant Jumbo dying from a digestive tract infection just last month despite an international campaign calling for him to be taken into care for better protection.

Jumbo was so weak that he collapsed under his own weight and broke both his back legs while trying to lift himself free from mud in a special area created for him where he could recover, Zoo Manager Pichai Sakunsorn told The Phuket News in explaining what had led to Jumbo’s death. (See story here.)

Zoo Manager Mr Pichai today told the press that the zoo could not ban tourists from taking photos with animals, as that was one of the zoo’s key attractions. The zoo’s main revenue streams were charging for entry tickets, selling food to tourists to use to feed the animals, and charging tourists to have their photos taken with the animlas, he explained.

However, he said the facility’s owners were reviewing whether they will continue the practice of allowing tourists to have their photos taken with specific animals.

“Most of the customers who come here want to take pictures with various animals. Those who like to take pictures with animals, mostly do not consider chaining them as cruel, but instead as a safety measure for tourists, especially tigers, because tigers are untrustworthy, unstable, and unpredictable,” he said.

“It is a way to prevent the animal from hurting tourists. The animal can breath properly and it does not harm them,” he said.

“As for drugging the animals, we can confirm that we never do that because the owner created this zoo out of love for animals,” Mr Pichai added.

Mr Pichai said that the zoo had not had a single safety incident in its 30 years of operation, and that each animal was considered as asset of value, and hence any harm done to the animals directly contradicted the ide of the zoo making money from them.

He also pointed out that every zoo was reuired to observe strict conditions in keeping animals, especially tigers.

“The conditions for keeping tigers need to be carefully observed. DNA records are kept and they have identification microchips, and no tigers caught in the wild go on show as they cannot be kept safely in a zoo,” he said.

“Currently, this zoo has 15 tigers, all of which have been bred in captivity and were acquired through exchanges with other zoos throughout the country,” Mr Pichai said.

“Also, the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand (see here) mandates that all animals are to be well cared for and that the origins of each animal can be clearly shown,” he added.

“The zoo is open to receive visitors and explain to them if people do not understand about animal care, and we are also conducting talks about launching field trips to people can see animals in the wild too,” Mr Pichai said.

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Christy Sweet | 22 June 2019 - 12:46:47

Time to outlaw drugged and poked tiger petting and elephant rides. Time to evolve and stop this violent and cruel over-lording of sentient creatures.

Timothy | 21 June 2019 - 09:25:04

I wonder how these government officials would like to be short-chained to that concrete all day. Where are the Thai animal lovers? How is this allowed to continue. I thought that the NG article would have them doing something to save the image of Thailand. Nope, not here. They don't give a damn.  

Kurt | 20 June 2019 - 08:44:25

As long as MNRE, DLD, Wild Life Edcation Centres, thai Vets and Zoo managers think it is normal to have wild animals in cages instead in Zoo Parks in their natural habitat, that long there will remain a enormous animal cruelty in Thailand. Also to drug tigers for tourist photo money is sickening and criminal. A degradation of wild animals to tourist toys.

Steve wooly | 19 June 2019 - 13:47:00

Were there any blood tests done, a toxicology report should be available for all to see,a visual check is never enough. This smacks of just another  cover up 

Nasa12 | 18 June 2019 - 10:48:24

COME ON. 

Timothy | 18 June 2019 - 08:53:26

Herein lies the problem. The officials that do the inspections are either paid for their favorable reports, or just plain incompetent. They are not the right people for the job. How can anybody that visits the Phuket Zoo think that the animals are being well treated? "No evidence of drugging"? Did they do blood tests?  

malczx7r | 18 June 2019 - 07:40:59

For a country that finds no sign of prostitution in Pattaya, not finding cruelty at the zoo is hardly surprising!

alf | 17 June 2019 - 21:54:21

“No evidence of animal cruelty has been found.”.
Just in the same way than Thai police can make a walk-thru inspection in Pattaya's walking street, and report that there is "no prostitution being conducted in the area"...

BenPendejo | 17 June 2019 - 19:29:10

This is similar to the police walking along Bangla Road recently and reporting that "nope...ain't no prostitution going on around here"

BenPendejo | 17 June 2019 - 19:27:18

That concrete cell that the tiger is shown in should be considered as cruelty to animals.  What a horrible life for any living thing to be caged in concrete.  Like many other officials, I place "0" weight on the accuracy or validity of their assessment.  Horrible place, and very bad for Thailand's reputation...but then...the all mighty baht takes precedence over everything here.

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