Thailand Animal Prison In Thai Department
Store Perfectly Legal
January 26, 2011
Morning Herald, Ben Doherty
There is a
gorilla on the seventh floor of a department store in
spends his days alone. There are no trees in his
15-by-10-metre concrete enclosure, just a tyre and a few
ropes hanging from the low ceiling.
away, a penguin is alone in an air-conditioned pen,
standing on tiles next to a pool of water smaller than a
bath and nowhere near deep enough for him to swim. Just
a few years ago, there were a dozen penguins. Only this
Pata Zoo sits atop a department store on a busy road in
the northern suburbs of Bangkok . Crammed into cages and
pens across the sixth and seventh floors of the ageing
building are more than 200 species – a menagerie of
orang-utans, pythons, turtles, flamingos, monkeys,
leopards, tigers, bears and even a Shetland pony.
of the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand , Edwin Wiek,
wants the zoo closed. ”Basically, it is an animal prison
on top of a shopping mall.
have very little room, there is very little sunlight,
the enclosures are dirty, they smell bad and people are
coming past all day, getting far too close to the
animals, which [stresses them].
”In 200 steps
you can see 50 different species. Most people know that
this is not an acceptable way to keep animals.”
like much of south-east Asia , faces myriad
animal-welfare issues. Cockfighting remains a popular
spectator sport, elephants are still put to work on the
traffic-choked streets of Bangkok and controversy
surrounds the popular monk-run Tiger Temple in
Kanchanaburi, where visitors can pay to pat tigers
critics say are cowed into submission.
capital remains a hub for smuggling animals across the
region and the world.
But Pata Zoo
represents the underlying, fundamental problem: a lack
of legislation on animal welfare. Pata Zoo is breaking
”There is no
rule or regulation saying how much space each animal
needs,” the zoo’s director, Kanit Sermsirimongkol, says.
”It’s not about space, it’s about the way in which you
treat the animals.
that we provide to the animals is enough for them to
freely move around and to exercise. The zoo has a vet …
and we have many species of animals successfully
breeding. That shows the animals are healthy and
”There is an
animal-welfare law in Thailand , but it is very simple,
very ineffective, and is rarely enforced,” Mr Wiek says.
towards animal welfare are changing.
Pata is slow. During the three hours the Herald
spends there, there are barely 10 visitors.
of the Thai Animal Guardians Association, Roger Lohanan,
says his organisation has successfully lobbied other
shopping centres and hotels to abandon plans for indoor
zoos. But campaigning to close the zoo at Pata has
foundered on a lack of legal muscle backing their cause.
Animals suffer under