Saturday, October 5, 2013

Seacon Pet Planet: The Safari or how wild animals are exploited in shopping malls

When I read an announcement about a Safari World at Seacon yesterday in the Bangkok Post, I was curious, so I just went there for the opening. The promotion area in the first floor was turned into a safari camp style arena, with a lot of huts and cages. First impression was actually quite good, well designed with explanations on every cage. But that was pretty much it.

First of all this is yet another event that makes money from the pet shops around selling mainly puppies, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs and pet supplies. So the whole event is business driven - of course, it is a shopping mall.

While I don't have much of a problem to see a snake in a cage or a turtle, I do see problems seeing a lion cub in a cage, next to a leopard cub. They are for public display, and of course fighting each other through the cages grid. I took picture when they had to use Betadin on the paw of the small leopard.

They also show a leopard baby, and for 100 baht you can hold it in your hand and give him milk.
Also on display are flamingos, deers, some birds and white-faced capuchin as far as I know. In total 35 species as the Bangkok Post mentioned.

So, what is wrong with it?

First of all, I don't think that a shopping mall is a natural habitat for lions and leopards. Not even for flamingos and deers. They were already stressed before the opening, and it went worst after the first hundreds of children and parents came in, passing at around a meter distance, seperated just by the small cage bars. For the lion and the leopard there was no place to hide and rest at all.

Second, a cub is not a toy and it's not a pet. It is a wild animal and needs protection, not exploitation. It is harming those animals to be used as a photo motive.

Also, the whole thing sends a totally wrong message to young (and old people). Animals are displayed as "cute" and cute sells pretty well these days in Thailand. In particular kids will not understand that this is a protected species. They will see it as a pet. No wonder so many wild animals are kept in private zoos and houses in Thailand. And from a generation that was educated this way, we can't expect much efforts in wild life protection or even understanding of it.

Safari World at Seacon Square

So, who brought the animals in? It is the Safari Park Open Zoo and Camp Conservation Centre in Kanchanaburi Of course, everyone can use the term "conservation" in Thailand. Reality is that this is a business that exploits animals. They advertise with "the only place in the world where you can touch and take a photo with giraffes" (They haven't been much outside Thailand, I guess), and if you read comments on Trip Advisor, it gest even worst. Right-Tourism mentioned: "Part of this advertisement was a leopard, it appeared to be drugged, it was extremely docile for an animal of this size – having seen big cats in safari parks in other countries, it was on a chain, there was no water available to the animal."

I wrote an email to Seacon Square expressing my disgust about the show, but honestly I don't expect any answer.