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Bangkok – Atop seven storeys of shop floors selling cheap perfume and nylon underwear, Thailand’s ‘shopping mall gorilla’ sits alone in a cage.

Activists around the world have long campaigned for singer Cher and actor Gillian Anderson to move primates from Bangkok’s shopping mall rooftop Pata Zoo in 2020.

But the family that owns the Bua Noi (whose name translates to “little lotus”) has resisted public and government pressure to give up the endangered animal.

Gorillas have lived in Pata for over 30 years.

But her case came back into the spotlight this month after the zoo offered a 100,000 baht (S$3,900) reward for information leading to the arrest of someone who graffitied “Free Bua Noi!” One of the walls of the shopping mall.

The upheaval comes as Thailand welcomes tourists after the pandemic, many drawn to the kingdom’s wildlife and ease of access.

The zoo represents a choke point in the transition from a country notorious for tiger selfies and abused elephants to a kingdom trying to position itself as a greener nation.

Authorities have passed new environmental laws aimed primarily at preventing the abuse of native animals.

These laws do not necessarily cover privately owned zoos such as pata and non-indigenous animals such as bua noi.

“(Pata) can continue to operate because the zoo section on the Wildlife Conservation and Conservation Act has not yet been implemented,” the director of the National Wildlife Service, Padej Righton, told AFP. rice field.

Only eight state-run zoos are monitored for animal welfare regulations, and at private facilities, authorities are more concerned about meeting licensing requirements.

Pata had applied for a license extension before it expired, Padedi said, adding that he was primarily concerned with the fire safety of the building, not the welfare of the animals.

“All these details must be answered before we can renew, suspend or revoke our license,” he said.

“In Her Own Kind”

A representative for Pata Zoo did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

However, the zoo points out that zoos around the world keep gorillas without problems, and accuses foreigners of criticizing them.

“None of the citizens of any country in the world, except Thailand, has ever attacked their country for possessing a gorilla,” management said in a page-6 statement released after the graffiti incident.

They say the gorilla has been well cared for throughout her life, even though it costs more than she brought in.

Bua Noi was reportedly three years old when he was brought from Germany in 1992.

According to the IUCN, the Eastern Gorilla has a life expectancy of over 40 years, and she has spent much of her life in Pata.

“She needs to get out of there,” Edwin Week of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, a nature reserve aimed at educating people and rehabilitating animals, told AFP.

“She can’t see the sun or the moon. She’s in a cement box with glass windows.”

Last year, amid mounting international pressure to release Bua Noi, the family-run zoo rejected a reported 30 million baht offer from Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, saying the gorilla was too old to return home. said it can’t.

But activists say this misses the point.

They argue that cages holding gorillas (very sociable animals that live in tight-knit family groups in the wild) are inappropriate.

“She needs to be like me, at least the opportunity to go out and see things and experience nature and birds flying around,” Wiek said.

Other animal rights groups have stated that Buanoi is “suffering extreme emotional distress”, furthered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Every weekend, kids and parents ride the rickety elevator to the zoo and eventually climb to the roof of Bua Noi with macaques, orangutans and tropical birds.

A stocky pygmy goat greets visitors before heading to Bua Noi, away from the dust and debris of the buildings that still dominate most of the zoo.

A giant gorilla appears to be stuck behind bars and glass windows, only with its tires shaking. AFPMore No freedom for Bangkok’s ‘mall gorilla’

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