The rescue of tiger & bear highlighted the miseries of wildlife tourism in Thailand

 Friday, March 11, 2022 


Long before the pandemic closed the international borders to foreign tourists in Thailand, the future of Phuket Zoo was quite undecided. Campaigners related to animal rights had raised eye-brows over conditions at the facility, and the declining number of visitors. At present, the zoo has shut down for good after experiencing two years of near-zero income. In the zoo, majority of the captive animals have been re-homed in wildlife parks located nearby. However, 11 tigers and two bears of the zoo have proved quite challenging to rehouse. For this wildlife venues, feeding and caring for these large mammals is prohibitively expensive and most of them are struggling to feed their own animals following loss of revenue due to damaged tourism sector.

The zoo owners with intent on finding a solution turned to Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) which is a nonprofit animal rescue center. It’s located in Phetchaburi, eight hours’ drive north of Phuket. Although in the past, WFFT has campaigned against practices at Phuket Zoo, the organization has decided to welcome all of the unhoused animals into its wildlife sanctuary. It will be the largest single rescue of tigers in the history of Thailand.

To quote Jan Schmidt-Burbach of World Animal Protection told Mongabay, “Commercial facilities that have wild animals depending on income from visitors are all struggling economically and shutting down left and right. The ones really suffering from it are the animals [and] in many cases, there is no place for them to go.”

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