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SOS Rhino : In the News : Thai zoo insists Kenya animals will be safe

Thai zoo insists Kenya animals will be safe

  10 Feb 2005 14:02:39 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Karishma Vyas

BANGKOK, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Thailand criticised green groups on Thursday for opposing its plan to import hundreds of exotic animals from Kenya for a new government-funded zoo.

The African nation has agreed to ship dozens of animals, including zebras, giraffes and lions, to the Chiang Mai Night Safari in northern Thailand, but conservationists have condemned the move, citing concerns for the animals' welfare. "I can 100 percent guarantee the safety of these animals," said Plodprasop Suraswadi, project coordinator for the zoo.

"African animals have been here for nearly 30 years. That's why I don't understand why some NGOs are making noise. It's absolute nonsense," he told Reuters.

Environmentalists from the Born Free Foundation want the Kenyan government to reverse its decision to export up to 300 animals, including rare species of white rhino, leopards and spotted hyenas.

The group slammed plans to capture wild animals for the shipment, and said many of those destined for Thailand were protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"We are deeply concerned about how and where these animals are to be sourced and the life that might await them should this proposal become reality," Will Travers, CEO of the foundation, said in a statement.

Thailand has come under fire for its poor wildlife protection record, especially following the deaths of 150 tigers at Sri Racha Tiger Zoo after they had eaten birdflu-infected chickens.

The Southeast Asian nation remains one of the world's leading trafficking routes for animal smugglers, with several privately owned zoos accused of illegally obtaining orang-utans and other rare species.

The Thai government has dismissed the concerns voiced by animal welfare groups, saying the Chiang Mai Night Safari would be most nature-friendly zoo in the world.

"It's not just another zoo. Thailand spent almost 2 billion baht ($52 million) on this zoo. It's better than any zoo in Kenya or any other country," said Plodprasop.

"It's the definition of NGOs that they always try to speak something different from the government. They don't understand us. They've never been to Thailand," he said. The zoo, set to open in April, is the brainchild of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who initiated the project to attract tourists to his hometown of Chiang Mai.

Modeled on Singapore's Night Safari, Thailand's version is expected to house some 1,000 animals from Australia, the Americas, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.