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Miserable Indoor Zoo in Bangkok Sparks Controversy

Miserable Indoor Zoo in Bangkok Sparks Controversy

The indoor Pata Zoo in Bangkok continues to cause controversy among animal advocates in Thailand.

The Pata Zoo occupies the top two floors of a department store on a busy street in Bangok. Inmates of the prison-like structure include a female gorilla named Bua Noi, two emaciated tigers, and a single “dazed-looking” Humboldt penguin, the last surviving member of a group of a dozen penguins. The penguin occupies an air-conditioned room alone.

Because of the structure of the zoo, the conditions of the enclosures, and the dreadful appearance of the animals, it is understandable why there are regular flare-ups of outrage about the Pata Zoo.

For activists in Thailand, one of their biggest concerns along with the wellbeing of the animals, is the danger of fire. A similar zoo existed in Bangkok that caught fire and killed most of the animals which were trapped inside.

Activists’ attempts to have the zoo shut down are hindered by the lack of real animal welfare laws in Thailand. The laws on the books are so vague that it’s impossible to shut down Pata on legal grounds. As incomprehensible as it is, Pata is a legal zoo with a permit.

People like Roger Lohanan lament the perception among Thais that animals are possessions that can be treated any way the owners choose. Lohanan is the secretary of the Thai Animal Guardian Association.

He says the attitude of the zookeepers is the same as a person who says he loves his fighting cock for being a good fighter. They love their animals for their usefulness but not much else. All this in a country that is predominately Buddhist.

Lohanan is right when he says that the problem is that humans perceive animals as property, inanimate objects not worth moral consideration. We can have strong affections for objects. I love my bicycle; it’s a source of exercise, transportation, and few things clear my head and bring me out of a gloomy mood like a long bike ride.

But I don’t worry about chaining up my bike, replacing the parts when I feel like it, or neglecting it when the weather’s not right for riding.

I don’t doubt that the people who walk elephants in the streets or train their dogs to perform in the marketplaces care about the animals, but they care about them the way you care about an object, not a sentient being. I don’t doubt that the zookeeper at Pata who keeps a picture of Bua Noi the gorilla in his wallet cares about her. But only as an object.

Even in a culture rooted in the compassionate teachings of Buddhism, the problem of animal exploitation runs rampant. 

Groups that advocate for animals in Thailand and across the globe have to work to change the perception of animals away from animals and to sentient beings worthy of moral consideration. Only by eliminating the status of animals as property will we ever make a meaningful change in their welfare. 

Zoos cannot exist in a culture that views animals as sentient beings. When we cease to view animals as property, we eliminate animal entertainment at the same time as we eliminate animal consumption. That’s the only way that Bua Noi will ever have a real life of her own.

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Photo: Johnath

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177 comments

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6:43AM PST on Jan 9, 2012

Oh, by the way:

I was in contact in 2009 with Prof. G. Agoramoorthy who is Honorary Executive Board Member of Seaza (South East Asian Zoos Association).
The "vision" of SEAZA is: "that its member zoos utilize their animal collections for the primary purposes of educating our public by imparting messages on the urgent need for environmental conservation in a manner that upholds the respect and dignity of the wild animal".

I got the thirtieth of September 2009 his answer at my complaint that Pata "zoo" claimed to be " Member of the organisations:- SEAZA" in their "web-site":

" I have informed the DG of ZPO to pass a message to Pata zoo not to use seaza
name in their website. If Pata zoo continues to use seaza name, not much you
and I can do! As I wrote to you earlier, Pata zoo is not a member of seaza
so we cannot do much to improve standards. I would suggest you to contact
local animal right groups in Thailand and ask them to take legal action.
It's their country and they should make sure animals don't suffer in their
backyard."

Well, that's clear enough.

After putting myself in contact with other board-members their reactions were NIL.
The SEAZA-board can be found under the following link: http://www.seaza.org/AboutBoard.html

The President & Chairman of Conservation Committee is Mr Sophon Dumnui (Zoological Park Organization, under the Royal Patronage of H.M. the King, 71 Rama V Road, Dusit - Bangkok.

6:10AM PST on Jan 9, 2012

Although this long lasting story is already sad enough you can visit a gallery with a lot of photos of these appalling premises. The stub-board owner must have a lot of (local) influence to keep out of range to be able to continue his dirty "business".

The photos and some links and explaining text can be found here: http://www.antoni-uni-photography.com/THAILANDantoniunimistifarang/misuse/Pata-zoo-Bangkok-thailand/12166094_3KSmbM#!i=865605253&k=5BcW8

6:39AM PDT on Jun 4, 2011

don't we count animals as property in most countries, are we really any better?

12:08PM PDT on Apr 17, 2011

My husband works in that country every year. I can't believe this is happening and I am sending him over this May to make things right.

8:42AM PDT on Mar 30, 2011

@Doug D. (I suppose you're american, as no British Douglas would call himself "Doug"; that explains the anthropocentric nature of your post).
Will you do me a favour by elaborating on how on Earth people must be any more valued than animals?
Pardon, I forgot: in Eimeirika it is a popular opinion that people represent a greater value than animals. I also forgot that in Eimeirika Jesus preaches to hunt and fish and shoot dogs and ride cows and to distort what once was English into the most hideous language in existence, worse than arabic or turkish, and strive to maintain an IQ of 15.
I rest my case, if you allow…

8:32AM PDT on Mar 30, 2011

The shameless asian scum, again.
I know exactly what makes up the average thai; of all muay thai boxers none I know is so money-hungry as the thais. Honor isn't anything they comprehend; money is all they fight for.
Their servile nature must not be mistaken for humility: slaves are servile, but not necessarily humble.
Do I not care for money? I do, very much. But nowhere remotely as much as for my principles. Principles - that's something the asians won't understand.
That infamous so-called "monk" is filling his pockets by drugging and abusing tigers, and selling them to the squalid plebs who murder them. There's sufficient proof, including some horrid images on the net, to my claim. The whole "thing" is extremely hideous.

9:19PM PST on Feb 17, 2011

I agree with Yvonne S. perfectly.It's putting animals for show to get money out of them.

9:17PM PST on Feb 17, 2011

All zoos in Thailand mostly keeo animals living in a crowed cages.In Chiangmai zoo,30 penguins are kept in a small space,4 Capybaras in a small townhouse,Flamingos in a small platform where part of their wings were prob. stripped off so they are unabled to fly.Buddism is what we gain by birth not by choice,it is part of the political game.

6:53PM PST on Feb 15, 2011

I hadn't heard of this wretched place before.

The author is correct that we must view life as life, not property. So sad, these wasted lives. Like a person kept "alive" on a ventilator -- they're breathing, but not living. Just awful, and it won't change because of the culture. We're bad enough here, with our factory farms and SOME laws. So much worse in a place with a department store "zoo."

10:07AM PST on Feb 15, 2011

Very sad. This place needs to be shutdown.

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