Bangkok's Pata Zoo came under fire on Tuesday for operating a zoo inside a shopping mall despite the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department's assertion that the caged animals were being treated well.
The Thai Animal Guardians Association (TAGA) filed a complaint with the zoo and claimed its location was inappropriate.
TAGA chairman Roger Lohanan said the authorities found nothing wrong when they inspected the zoo on Monday because their criteria was based on the legal fact that the gorilla rightfully belongs to the zoo.
But he said the matter at hand had more to do with the ethics of opening a zoo at a shopping mall.
The zoo's location was not appropriate and could not provide the animals with sufficient recreational space, he said.
The group submitted a letter to the private zoo, he said, to get officials to improve the conditions as appropriate for such animals and put in place fire prevention measures.
He suggested that zoo officials set up a committee made up of credible public and private agencies to explain the situation rather than explaining it themselves.
Kanit Sermsirimongkol, director of PATA Zoo, said the zoo strictly implemented hygiene and security measures, and employed 20 staff members to clean and feed 300400 animals. He said the zoo's animal husbandry experts and veterinarians regularly checked the animals on a monthly and yearly basis.
The zoo had to postpone its expansion during the economic slowdown, Kanit said, adding that the zoo business is tough and required high investment. He said the zoo was looking for a new location and contacting other interested zoos about animal transfers.
Narisara Saengthong, a 39yearold visitor, said she visited the zoo with her children for the first time and did not feel uncomfortable because the zoo's general environment was good and the zoo seemed to take good care of the animals. She said it would be better if the zoo expanded its space.
Chalermsak Vanitsombat, directorgeneral of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, said he found nothing wrong with the zoo in terms of animal housing and care, but he instructed zoo officials to expand the space.
He said that despite the zoo's best intentions, some of the animals were struggling without companionship. The gorilla, for example, has been lonely since her male companion died. The zoo should find another male gorilla, he said.
Udom Tanwattanakul, head of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department's Wildlife Registration Division, said the test results from the samples collected on Monday would be available in two weeks and that the department would have another meeting with Pata Zoo about the matter.
Zoo director Kanit insisted the zoo had complied with the law and if there was anything more that needed to be done, the government should pass a clear regulation for it.
He lamented the trials of the business and said it was not suitable for investors who did not have a passion for it.
The zoo's monthly expenses are Bt600,000 while admission costs Bt60 for adults and Bt40 for children. The zoo attracts about 100 visitors a day and 1,000 on weekends.
by Mayuree Sukyingcharoenwong
Video clip of animals in Pata Zoo