Pata Zoo denies acquiescing in deal to sell prized ape

Pata Zoo denies acquiescing in deal to sell prized ape

Pata Zoo has denied there is a deal in place to sell the country's last gorilla, Bua Noi, for 30 million baht so she can be relocated to Germany, saying her management never thought of putting a price on the cherished animal to gain profit.

SWINGS IN ROUNDABOUTS: The country's last gorilla, 33-year-old Bua Noi, plays on a swing at Pata Zoo. The gorilla is becoming the talk of the town after authorities attempted to return her to Germany while Pata Zoo denies reports of a deal to sell her for 30 million baht.

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 have been in charge since Aug 28, 2020. Up to now, the executives have not entered any negotiations to sell Bua Noi," the company said on its Facebook page yesterday.

"They 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 to a new environment. The ageing gorilla has spent her life at the zoo and has been accustomed to the environment and absence of natural pathogens for more than 30 years."

Meanwhile, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-archa said yesterday the Ministry and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation was still looking for a way to return Bua Noi to Germany.

However, he said more studies about whether she could adapt are needed, as the ape has been raised in a closed environment for so long.

"We need opinions from wildlife experts about a suitable habitat for Bua Noi, bearing in mind her hygiene and safety.

"The process takes time and effort, but we cannot say exactly what kind of budget we need," said Mr Varawut.

Mr Varawut said that as far as he knew, talks between the private sector and his ministry over selling Bua Noi for 30 million baht started before he assumed the position. ''So, it's Pata's right to issue such a statement,'' he said.

Thanespol Thanaboonyawat, Mr Varawut's secretary, said on Friday authorities wanted to repatriate Bua Noi, or "Little Lotus", to the zoo in Germany where she was bred. He said Pata Zoo had put a price of her relocation at 30 million baht.

Mr Thanespol said that over the years the ministry had received complaints from visitors to the zoo, animal lovers and wildlife activists about her living conditions.

As the animal is now 33 years old and the average lifespan of gorillas is 40–50 years, the ministry devised a plan to send her back, he said.

Pata Zoo said the executives wished to reiterate that no individuals or agencies had shown any interest in studying the environment or living conditions at the zoo.

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 sensitive matter, raising a gorilla to survive in a zoo. In past years, Thailand has been successful," the zoo said.

"Now, Bua Noi is entering old age. Pata Zoo constantly holds meetings to take good care of the animal as we are aware that Bua Noi, the country's last gorilla, could die at any time, due to her age."

The zoo's executives added that Bua Noi has always been well looked after and 10,000 baht a month is spent on her care. She is too old to adjust to the wild or any other way of life, they say.

There have been calls for the gorilla to spend her final years in the country she was born in. People are entitled to have different views on the matter, the zoo said. However, it is not proper for a responsible agency supervising zoos to use the term "being imprisoned" for animals raised in zoos, it added.

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