The news follows Brit photographer Aaron Gekoski reporting “horror” conditions at Safari World and Pata Zoo in Bangkok, as well as Phuket Zoo, through a report posted by UK newspaper The Sun online.
The report noted despairing conditions for animals and blasted Safari World in Bangkok for forcing orangutans to perform shows to entertain tourists, including having the apes perform a fake boxing match with female orangutans wearing skimpy bikinis and posing as “ring girls”. (See story here.)
Piyawat Sukon, Chief of the Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Conservation Centre in Thalang, today (April 10) confirmed to The Phuket News that Phuket Zoo is already under orders to improve conditions for apes and monkeys kept there – if it wants to keep its license as a public zoo.
The Khao Phra Thaew Non-Hunting Area Office is the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) office responsible for the welfare of wildlife animals in Phuket and neighbouring provinces.
Mr Piyawat pointed out that Phuket Zoo was instructed to improve conditions fro animals during an inspection about three months ago by a committee of the Zoological Park Organization (ZPO), which is the ultimate authority in Thailand for issuing permits for venues to operate as public zoos.
Without the ZPO’s consent, zoo licences are not approved.
“I joined an inspection of Phuket Zoo conducted by a ZPO committee about three months ago. I saw that some parts of Phuket Zoo were kept very well, such as the elephant section, and were approved,” Mr Piyawat said.
However, he added, “But other areas, such as the sections where apes and monkeys are kept, were not good and needed to improved.”
Mr Piyawat explained that the inspection was “special” in that it was conducted in response to Phuket Zoo applying to renew its license to operate as a public zoo.
If the ape and monkey areas are not improved, the ZPO will be unlikely to renew Phuket Zoo’s license, he inferred.
Meanwhile, Paisal Sukhapunnapun of the Phuket Fisheries Office has confirmed that a crocodile pictured trapped in a tiny enclosure in the report by The Sun is not “Leypang”, the mixed-breed crocodile captured on Phuket’s west coast in August last year. (See story here.)
Mr Paisal was tasked with ensuring the care of “Leypang” and making sure that the croc’s new home is appropriate. After much debate, Leypang was handed over to Phuket Zoo to keep in good health. (See story here.)
“I can confirm that the crocodile in the photo is not Leypang. The enclosure at Phuket Zoo created especially for Leypang is much bigger than this,” Mr Paisal told The Phuket News today.
“Last month I went to check on Leypang. I can confirm that Leypang is healthy and eating well,” Mr Paisal said.
“Leypang is very much in the people’s interest, so Phuket Zoo can’t ignore making sure the shelter is appropriate,” he noted.
‘I will return to check in on Leypang from time to time to make sure he is being kept well, though right now I cannot confirm the exact date of my next visit,” Mr Paisal explained this afternoon.
Pichai Sakunsorn of Phuket Zoo Co Ltd today declined to comment in detail on the conditions animals at the zoo are kept in.
Instead, he insisted that Phuket Zoo is “in the process of improving conditions” for animals kept there.
However, Mr Pichai declined to provide any photos of the animals’ housing conditions at the zoo today.
“I don’t like this news, which affects Thailand, and especially Phuket as a tourism attraction, with Phuket Zoo being the focus,” Mr Pichai said.
“Whatever we do always results in negative feedback for us. Phuket Zoo is not supported by the government. We have to run it by ourselves and provide our own budget to fix and run the zoo. It needs time,” he said.
“I don’t want to go into this in more detail. Just talking about this topic is enough for today,” he added.
Phuket Zoo last made international headlines in the despairing case of “Milo the Orangutan”, dangerously overweight through poor diet and lack of exercise and kept in a cage under a stage at the zoo, being dumped into the wild in central Phuket amid fears that Milo had been illegally obtained. (See story here.)
Although finally taken into protective care after being held at Phuket Zoo for two years, Milo died just weeks later. (See story here.)
Whether or not Milo was legally acquired was never made clear. However, officials were proud to announce that two other baby orangutans discovered at Phuket Zoo during an inspection resulting from the Milo fiasco were legally acquired – from Safari World in Bangkok. (See story here.)