Tiger and bear rescue spotlights captive wildlife tourism woes in Thailand

The future of Phuket Zoo was uncertain long before the COVID-19 pandemic closed Thailand’s borders to foreign tourists. Animal rights campaigners had frequently raised concerns over conditions at the facility, and visitor numbers were dwindling. Now, after two years of near-zero income, the zoo has shut down for good.

Most of the captive animals have been rehomed in nearby wildlife parks, but the zoo’s 11 tigers and two bears (one Asiatic black bear and one Malaysian sun bear) have proved harder to rehouse. The cost of feeding and caring for the large mammals is prohibitively expensive for wildlife venues across the country, all of which are struggling to feed their own animals following the loss of tourism revenue.

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Carolyn Cowan