HSI asks Minister not to send Australian animals to deadly Thai theme park
HSI has written to Senator Ian Campbell, Minister for Environment and Heritage, asking that he refuse to issue an export permit for 40 Australian animals to go to Chang Mai Safari Park in Thailand where 104 animals have reportedly died due to poor care and lack of expertise.
The request to export the animals has come from Taronga and Melbourne Zoos and is part of a deal signed with the Thai Government over the importation of 8 Asian elephants to the two Australian zoos.
HSI understands that the plan is to export 40 animals from 8 species to the Safari Park, including koalas, possums, wallabies and dingos. However, HSI does not believe the animal welfare requirements of Australian legislation for the export of native wildlife are satisfied when there are serious concerns over whether the Thai theme park is suitably equipped to care for the animals.
“If the reports of 104 fatalities are true, there must be grave doubts over whether the theme park is equipped to meet even the basic needs of its animals in its care and all indications we have from Thailand are that the reports are true”, said Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife & Habitat Program Manager.
Chang Mai Safari Park is also under fire because it wants to stock its cages with 175 African animals to be seized from the wild in Kenya. Kenyan and international conservationists are in uproar and have launched a court case to stop the exports going ahead. The Director of the Safari Park, Plodprasop Suraswadi, also enraged conservationists by suggesting that endangered animals such as lion, tigers and elephants would be on the menu at the theme park’s restaurant. Plodprasop Suraswadi has previously been investigated for the illegal export of 100 tigers from Thailand to China when he was head of the Thai Department of Natural Resoures and Environment.
The export of the Australian animals is part of a Memorandum of Agreement between Taronga and Melbourne Zoos and the Thai Government over the importation of 8 Asian elephants from Thailand. “HSI is concerned that the two Australian zoos may cast aside usual reservations you would expect them to have over exporting wildlife to such a controversial theme park because they do not wish to jeopardise the importation of the 8 elephants which has yet to take place – or to jeopardise their plans to procure further baby elephants from Thailand in the future”, said Ms Beynon.
However, the Australian Government is not bound by the Memorandum of Agreement between the Thai government and the zoos. Senator Campbell is instead bound by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Under that Act the Minister cannot issue an export permit to send Australian animals to an overseas facility that is not suitably equipped to care for the animals and to meet their specific behavioural and biological needs.