Tiger park set for permanent closure

Tiger park set for permanent closure

Officials of the Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation examine a tiger skin at Mukda Tiger Park & Farm in Mukdahan province. (Photo from the Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.)
Officials of the Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation examine a tiger skin at Mukda Tiger Park & Farm in Mukdahan province. (Photo from the Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.)

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is to withdraw the operating licence of Mukda Suan Sua (Mukda Tiger Park & Farm) after DNA tests showed that two of its tiger cubs were not born in captivity after all.

The decision comes after DNA tests were carried out on the cubs and their presumed parents -- "Do Do" and "Ma Feung".

The tests showed that two cubs -- "Khao Mao" and "Khao Pluak" -- did not share the adults' DNA, as the park operator had claimed, and were therefore thought to have been smuggled in.

The DNP on Tuesday filed charges against the park operator for smuggling and perjury, as well as ordering the park to close for 30 days.

It was the second time this year that the park had been ordered to shut -- it received a one-month closure order in January after DNA tests last November on another pair of parenting tigers and four cubs showed they too were not DNA-linked and the cubs had therefore been smuggled in.

Sompong Thongsrikhem, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office, said the withdrawal of the park's licence could now see it shut indefinitely -- the wildlife protection law permits the DNP to withdraw a zoo's business licence after it is temporarily shut twice within 12 months.

The DNP could also go to court to be sure the park is shut permanently but that is a time-consuming process, said Mr Sompong.

He expected the DNP to soon start the process to permanently withdraw the park's operating licence and expected the park to shut its doors for the final time during 2021.

Mukda Suan Sua has 46 tigers and cubs -- the department has now run DNA tests on six cubs and found that none were born in captivity, as the owner of the park had claimed.

The park owner also faces up to five years in prison if convicted of smuggling wildlife species.

Ruengnabha Pattanawiboon, deputy chief of the DNP, said it intended to run DNA checks on 1,500 tigers in 39 tiger farms across the country to stamp out the illegal trade in tigers.

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