Thai zoos come under scrutiny again as tourism rebounds from COVID-19

A run-down department store tucked among Bangkok’s skyscrapers is home to the rooftop Pata Zoo, where nearly 300 animals pace in cages littered with feces, food scraps and trash. Bua Noi, the main attraction at the zoo and the only gorilla known to be in Thailand, has been kept in a cage here for 30 years, isolated and alone.

“This zoo follows no animal care or welfare standards,” Georgina Groves, the executive director of Wild Welfare, a U.K.-based nonprofit, said in a press release. “For too long this has resulted in inaction by the zoo and consequently terrible animal suffering.”

After years of pandemic restrictions due to COVID-19, tourists are coming back to Thailand, eager to lounge on beautiful beaches and see the country’s remarkable animals. But all is not well with those animals — elephants, tigers, primates, and many more. Without the money from tourists during times of travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic, some captive animals languished in appalling conditions. Even before COVID-19, animals used in tourist attractions, zoos and as pets were often mistreated and abused.

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Shannon Brault