Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chiang Mai Night Safari: 300 animals die from poor care

300 animals die from poor care

A chronic lack of experience among zoo keepers had led to the deaths of almost 300 animals at the Chiang Mai Night Safari in just two years, zoo director Preecha Ratanaporn said yesterday. Poor diet and inadequate care from the zoo's veterinarians had caused the demise of many animals, including zebra and giraffe, he said.

The zoo is home to about 1,700 animals but the complex employs just six veterinarians.

Chiang Mai Night Safari, initiated by the Thaksin administration, opened on Feb 6, 2006. It is located in Muang district's tambon Suthep and Hang Dong district's tambon Nong Khwai.

The zoo director's statement came after members of the web board for nature and animals at discussed the matter. They said the cost of the dead animals could be as high as 26 million baht.

Mr Preecha, however, said most of the dead animals were small animals, such as birds, flying squirrels and deer.

''We don't think this is a big issue,'' Mr Preecha said.

Although some 300 animals had died, the zoo also had been blessed with 290 newborn animals, he said.

Mr Preecha said some animals imported from Africa were exhausted by the journey and could not adjust to their new environment.

''Some of them had digestive problems as they ate too much and eventually died,'' he said.

''We are studying proper diet and feeding times for these animals to keep them healthy.''

The zookeepers needed to learn more about habits and nature of imported animals to better take care of them, he said.

Thai Wildlife Protection Network secretary-general Nikom Putta urged new environment minister Suwit Khunkitti to curb the number of zoos in Thailand.

The Zoological Park Organisation plans to expand its business to many provinces such as Ubon Ratchathani, Chumphon, Ratchaburi and Sukhothai provinces, he said.

''The new minister should stop the establishment of new zoos and focus on the protection of forests which are the natural habitat of wild animals,'' Mr Nikom said.

He also urged the Chiang Mai Night Safari to clarify the figure and causes of the death of the animals.

The night safari is the creation of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who wanted to increase tourism at the northern city.

The project has come under heavy criticism from wildlife advocates and civil groups who fear the zoo could become a front for illegal wildlife trade.

Bangkok Post