Pata Zoo has denied there is any deal to sell the country’s last gorilla, Bua Noi, for 30 million baht so that she can be relocated to Germany, saying its management never thought of putting a price on the cherished animal to gain profits.
It was responding to reports that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was seeking to negotiate with Pata Pinklao Department Store, which runs the zoo, to free the 33-year-old female gorilla.
“The current team of Pata Pinklao department store executives has been in charge of the management since Aug 28, 2020. Up to now, the executives have never entered any negotiations to sell Bua Noi with anyone or any agencies,” the company said in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Saturday.
“They had turned down a plan to relocate the gorilla as earlier requested by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. In their written reply, the executives said they were not certain that Bua Noi could adjust herself to a new environment. The ageing gorilla has spent her life at the zoo and has been accustomed to this environment and a disease-free place for more than 30 years.”
Thanespol Thanaboonyawat, the secretary to the minister of natural resources and environment, Varawut Silpa-archa, said on Friday that authorities wanted to repatriate Bua Noi, or “Little Lotus”, to the zoo in Germany where she was bred. He said Pata Zoo had put the price of her relocation at 30 million baht.
Mr Varavut on Saturday declined to comment directly on the statement from Pata Zoo. However, he said there had been negotiations between the ministry and Pata Zoo about Buo Noi before he assumed the post at the ministry. No other details were given.
He called on zoos across the country, both state and private, to take good care of the welfare and well-being of animals under their care.
Mr Thanespol said that over the years the ministry had received complaints from visitors to the zoo, animal lovers and wildlife activists about the living conditions of Bua Noi, and that she has lived a solitary life for 30 years.
As the animal is now 33 years old and the average lifespan of gorillas is 40–50 years, the ministry had devised a plan to take her back to her place of origin, he said.
In the statement, Pata Zoo said the current executives wanted to reiterate that no individuals or agencies had shown interest in contacting them to study the environment at the zoo and the living conditions of Bua Noi.
Without elaborating, it said “a person who gave a recent media interview“ had never spent time studying the animal at the zoo to consider the feasibility of any relocation project.
“It’s a very sensitive matter to raise a gorilla to survive in a zoo. Over the past years, Thailand has proven to be successful,” the statement continued. “Now, Bua Noi is entering old age for her species. Pata Zoo constantly holds meetings to take good care of the animal as we are fully aware that Bua Noi, the country’s last gorilla, could die at any time, due to her old age.”
Pata Zoo executives have said Bua Noi has always been well looked after and that it has spent about 10,000 baht a month on her care. She is too old to adjust to the wild or any other way of life, they argue.
There have been calls for the gorilla to spend her final years in her country of origin. People are entitled to have different views on the matter, the statement said. However, it was not proper for a responsible agency supervising zoos to use the term “being imprisoned” for animals raised in zoos, it added.
Although the company has been operating at loss, there has never been even a single time when it put a price on Bua Noi in order to obtain a profit from its most cherished animal, said the zoo.