A notorious Thai zoo shocked visitors with the poor state of its animals during the Covid-19 downturn.
Pictures show emaciated cattle, gaunt tigers, bears rocking nervously back-and-forth and sick-looking crocodiles in filthy green water.
Local photographer Umpon Thongmeungluang, who lives nearby, said he was concerned after seeing the condition of the animals at the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo on February 13.
Umpon said he almost cried when he saw the extremely thin tigers pacing anxiously around a pond inside their enclosure.
He said: ‘The animals were all really thin that I felt sorry for them. I was upset when I saw them. The tigers kept walking in circles and I wondered if they were hungry or hoping that someone would feed them.
‘I had many memories of the zoo but things looked different when I returned after the lockdown.’
Umpon took pictures of the tigers including the other malnourished wildlife such as cows, bears, crocodiles, and monkeys. They were later shown to wildlife officials.
After seeing the pictures, government staff from the National Park, Wildlife and Breeding Department officials inspected the zoo on February 15.
They arrived with reporters who saw the poor state of the animals that had allegedly starved during the lockdown while the zoo was closed to tourists and struggling without any income income.
However, zoo manager Uthen Yangprapakorn claimed to the officers that all of their animals are well taken care of.
He said: ‘The tigers here are healthy. You can’t force a tiger to be the size that you want. What’s important is that they don’t have any health problems.
‘The African cow species are also naturally thin. It is not the same as the cow in our homes that are bigger and fatter, therefore you can’t compare them together.’
Utane said that ‘the zoo cannot change the sizes of the animals to suit the tastes of the tourists’.
He added: ‘Crocodiles are like humans in their old age. They become thinner and frail as they get older.’
Meanwhile, Girna Nordechanon, a veterinarian from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation did a health check on the animals and found that most of them do not have serious problems like the manager claimed.
However, she noted that the animals are thin because their living spaces are too cramped and the food given to each cage is not enough to keep the animals well-fed.
She said: ‘Some of the animals have to compete for food inside enclosures so they look thin. I advise that the zoo put the thinner animals in another space so that they don’t have to compete for food.’
Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has campaigned for several years for the notorious zoo to be closed down.
PETA Senior Vice President Jason Baker said the Samut Prakan Zoo was ‘hell on Earth for animals’.