Phuket’s zoo closes for good

In Phuket, work has begun to dismantle the cages in the zoo, all the buildings will be demolished and the area will be turned into a coconut plantatio

Phuket’s zoo closes for good

In an interview with Phuket News, Surya Tanthavevong, 42, owner of the Phuket Zoo, said it was unlikely he would ever return to running the zoo, even if tourists returned in large numbers.

«Phuket Zoo is closed. We are now planting coconut trees in the area to change the use of the land.» The area of the former zoo was 30 rai [4.8 hectares]. We are turning the whole area into a coconut plantation," Surya stated.

«There aren’t any animals left there. We’ve already found new homes for all the animals and will probably never go back to running the zoo again,» he added. Surya blames the Covid-19 pandemic for the closure of the zoo, which has been in operation for 26 years.

«The Phuket Zoo had been operating since 1996. The main reason for its closure was the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We closed in 2020 and could not pay the bills due to lack of income from visiting tourists,» said the zoo owner.

Over the years, the zoo has gained a sad reputation among animal lovers around the world because of the conditions in which the animals were kept. When asked how he would like to remember the Phuket Zoo, Surya said he didn’t want to remember the past. «Let’s just adapt to the current situation,» he added.

The removal of the cages and demolition of the buildings came after the Friends of Wildlife Foundation of Thailand (WFFT), led by Edwin Wick, successfully rescued 11 tigers and two bears from the zoo.

«All of them are now in our facilities. However, we have six more macaques and one gibbon to rescue, for which we need to raise funds,» Wick told a local newspaper. «Right now, all the enclosures for the tigers are ready and open for the animals to explore, but we also need to build another enclosure in case some of them don’t get along together. Now all the tigers live in four enclosures,» said Vic.

Tiger rescue in Phuket

Preparations for the operation to rescue 11 tigers from the zoo, described as the largest ever in Thailand’s history, began earlier this year. Staff at WFFT, based in Phetchaburi, made two enclosures of 9 and 10 rai (1.44 and 1.6 hectares), each with ponds, trees and a place for the tigers to walk.

Celebrating the rescue of a 19-year-old Bengal tigress named Mukda, who was rescued by the foundation from Phuket Zoo last Sunday (June 13), Vic said: «This is the first time Mukda has been outside in his natural habitat. It’s a magical difference we make together! The life story of this Bengal tigress is a bit of a mystery, but we can only assume she was born in a zoo and only knew concrete cages. Just look how mesmerized she is by her newfound freedom.»

Mukda is one of three tigers safely rescued from Phuket Zoo earlier this month. The other two, Baitong and Mena, have also enthusiastically accepted their new home.

«Mr. Maruay, rescued from the Phuket Zoo, is enjoying his new life very much. Please join our tiger care team and help these majestic animals get the care they need after so many years in the Phuket Zoo,» the foundation said in a June 10 appeal for continued financial support to continue caring for the animals.

Maruay arrived at the sanctuary along with Mimi the tiger. Their rescue was followed by the rescue of three other tigers, Rambo, Pong and Paeng.

«After a long trip to WFFT, we are happy to report that the three tigers, Rambo, Pong and Paeng are feeling well. We look forward to hearing from them and hope that they will soon go outside to enjoy spacious habitats and get their first taste of semi-wild life. Once again, we want to thank our supporters for making this happen,» the foundation representatives said gratefully on June 9.

«At WFFT, they have swimming pools to swim in, an area where they can hide, and extensive habitat where animals can re-learn their natural behavior and experience freedom,» the wildlife organization said.

Phuket’s zoo closes for good Phuket’s zoo closes for good

Saving bears

While international attention has been focused on saving the tigers, the foundation has also taken into custody two bears from Phuket Zoo that have lived their entire lives in small cages. One is an Asian black bear more than 20 years old and the other is a Malayan sun bear more than 10 years old, WFFT explained in a press release calling for funds to keep the bears healthy.

Funds are needed to build livable enclosures for the bears as well as to feed them. «Please help us build the enclosures for them that they so deserve. With a pond, shelters, trees for climbing and natural terrain — so they can begin to overcome their trauma and learn to be bears again,» the foundation urges in its appeal.

«We urgently need to raise funds to build enclosures for the Phuket Zoo bears here at WFFT. Each aviary costs about 14,000 euros. Please make a donation so that the bears finally get the natural habitat they so desperately need.»

Vic said that ongoing financial support is also needed to feed and care for the tigers. Feeding the tigers requires four to five pounds of meat each day, Vick explained. «It’s mostly chicken, with different meats added on different days, such as pork and beef,» he said. The animals also need regular health screenings and health checks, the foundation head added.

To learn more about WFFT or to help the sanctuary’s new residents, visit the official WFFT website: www. wfft. org

Phuket’s zoo closes for good Phuket’s zoo closes for good