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Pata Zoo in Bangkok Thailand
In May 2009 I made my 5th visit to the infamous Pata Zoo in Bangkok, Thailand. Located on the top two floors of the Pata department store this zoo has taken a huge amount of critical comment over the years. Much of this is, I believe, simply due to location. It puts me in mind of Blackpool Tower Zoo which I remember from the sixties in the UK.
It cost me a hefty 200 Baht to get in but this was 'falang' price (Thai's were less than 100 Baht). Mind you I did get a coupon for a free coke inside.
The first floor is the reptile house. There are a total of 140 reptile exhibits of various sizes. Mixed in with the herps are some ten or so devoted to birds, mammals and aquaria along with educational and museum type displays.
I arrived just as one of the shows started. I knew I was not going to like it but felt obliged to watch. The show involved a 3-4 year old Orangutan riding a bike and lifting weights. It was all rather pathetic and not very clever. Then a pretty girl walked round with a Macaw. Next a man with Molorus python accompanied by two people in monkey suits. The commentary was in Thai and I very much doubt it had any educational content. It was very quick and followed up by photo opportunities for a price. Next a stage was set up on the stage and some small plastic stools positioned at either end of the stage. This was for one of the bloody horrible monkey shows that I hate so very much. This involved three unfortunate Pig-tailed Macaques dressed as people and made to sit like them and respond. I felt so sorry for the poor little blighters. A lot of the show involved communication and reaction and I suppose (not really) that may have been a clever spiel. It was when we arrived at the point of seeing one poor creature jumping through a hoop of knives that I thought I would quit the show. As it was it got stuck on the knives twice.
I spent the next few hours touring the zoo.
One of Several Educational Displays
Area for Students to Work
A Partial List of Animals
I am not a lister of animals but I look more at the zoo (any zoo) as a whole but consider it important to include a partial compilation of the animals held in Pata Zoo. On the reptile department side of things there were a lot of cobras and pythons and not much else of interest apart from some nice Monitor Lizards and some wonderful Giant Mudskippers Periophthalmodon schlosseri ( lousy enclosure though) .
Three striped palm civet
Common palm civet
Masked palm civet
Large Indian Civet
Burmese Ferret Badger Melogale personata
Banded Linsang Prionodon linsang
Siberian weasel Mustela sibirica
Java Silvered Langur
White Cheeked Guenon
Crab eating macaques (inc albinos)
Rhesus Macacaques (in albinos)
Stump tailed macaques
Pig tailed macaque (inc albino)
Family of four Orangutan including juvenile of about a year old
Another big male Orangutan on his own
Two Chimpanzees (one nearly white)
Lar Gibbon with young
Oriental Pied Hornbill
There was a great deal more.
I believe it is extremely unlikely that the Badger, the Weasel or the Linsang are new specimens as I remember them from my first visit. This being the case it demonstrates that Pata Zoo knows how to keep animals alive. Sadly though it does not know how to keep them.
Red Billed Ground Cuckoo
Inadequate Flamingo Enclosure
Hoopoe with very little Space
Two Tier Aviaries
There are a lot of educational displays and posters. Okay it is all in Thai so I cannot vouch for content or accuracy but where a scientific name is called for then they use it along with the English name too. Sometimes one or both are incorrect but the effort has been made.
Besides I would make a real hash of it if I were writing the Thai.
I believe that Pata Zoo is the only place I have visited which uses two tier aviaries. This really is making the maximum use of space and is hardly hygienic as waste from the cage above can and does drop into a portion of the cage below.
There is even a single Humboldt Penguin up here in its own air conditioned apartment. Why one? Where are the others? Evidence suggests there was at least half a dozen until recently. The simplest of zoo legislation requiring submission of a five column annual stock sheet would help solve such mysteries.
There were the inevitable photographic sessions with either the python, macaw or orangutan. At the same time they were flogging souvenirs. It was not though so 'in your face' as say, Bali Safari World.
Along the way my camera gave out. How? It was fully charged. Happily I was able to take some shots before this occurred.
The Classic 'Sad' Shot
All through the Pata Zoo the barriers are either non-existent or so minimal that they really serve no purpose at all. This in itself need not necessarily be a bad thing with top notch supervision but here you are lucky to see a member of staff unless you want to buy something or have your photo taken with an animal.
There is a Children's Zoo. This is mainly Sheep, Goats and Guinea Pigs. Here you can buy some greens, bread and biscuits to feed the animals. Harmless stuff in limited quantities but again no control as to how much gets fed to what and where.
It may seem an odd thing to say but Pata Zoo is a relaxing place to visit. After the hustle and buzz of the street below it is quiet here and the air is cleaner plus there are some gardens which give a sense of ambience to what is a very poor zoo.
Lots of Albinos in Pata
One thing which is rarely mentioned and I don't know why it is that I never noticed it before but there is a third 'zoo' floor. This is not open to the public but from odd angles I was able to see and/or hear other hornbills and primates up there.
The boardwalk through walk through aviary is in urgent need of attention. Like the rest of the zoo you can only patch up for so long before something really goes wrong.
I suppose my problem is that I have seen some really appalling zoos and if I include them into any formula of how to gauge the zoo then Pata Zoo is nowhere near the bottom. Some zoos which Joe public would be inclined to marvel at would be much nearer the bottom with me. Okay the location is far from ideal but I can remember Blackpool Tower Zoo, Harrods Zoo and others in Department Store zoos in Grimsby, Leeds and other places. I also remember the Associated Pleasure Parks 'Winter Zoo's' in Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, Newcastle Town Hall and in Leeds. Some of these were worse than Pata Zoo.
Pata Zoo could be quickly put right if there were some sort of Pan Asian zoo legislation. Simple laws such as collections must join with studbooks for species they hold. They must go along with the directions and guidance of species co-ordinators and they must pair up or re-home singletons. All common sense really. I (and many others) would like to see SEAZA getting its act together on such basics.
There was no enrichment anywhere in Pata Zoo. None at all. Again not everyone will agree with me here but I do make the distinction between cage furniture, daily routine and enrichment. So many zoos make the mistake of lumping them altogether under the 'enrichment' heading but they are wrong. It is, as I see it, an excuse to cover over inadequate
The zoo first opened in 1984 and has remained a popular attraction for the Thai people ever since. It does not appear on any 'Tourist tour' as far as I am aware. The zoo nearly closed in 1992 when a tragic fire caused the death of many animals held on the 6th floor. Those on the
7th floor survived.
Over the years a huge variety of different species have been held here. The question must be asked. What happened to the Polar Bear, the Pigmy Hippo, Clouded Leopard, Elephant and others?
The anti-zoo fraternity and the ill informed describe the zoo conditions as barbaric. They are not at all. Some cite cruelty. Okay then define cruelty because you cannot visit Western values and norms on an Eastern culture. I make a distinction between 'malicious cruelty' and 'uninformed (cultural) cruelty'. Whereas I agree the location of the zoo is far from appropriate and the space for practically everything is inadequate, that enrichment is non existent and that cage furnishings are below minimum or non existent. Was there a single exhibit that I liked?.... No, definitely not. Is it a good zoo or a bad zoo? Bad, for sure... and I could go on but barbaric? Cruel? No these are not the words I would use. The monkey show...now I did think that was on the edge of ignorant cruel...and stupid too, and of course I know nothing of the training methods used. I despise the use of animals in circus type entertainment. If there is not a positive educational effort being put forward then the exercise should be abandoned. But then was what I saw in Pata any better or worse than I saw in Bali Safari and Marine Park?
Burmese Ferret Badger
Skipping through the internet entries I note that Pata does not appear on the current SEAZA membership list. Other sites say it is a member. So my questions are. Is it a member of SEAZA now and if so, why? If not, was it a member before and if so, why? And if it was and is not
now what was the reason for the reason for membership being terminated? Perhaps it was simply non payment of dues. One wonders because the Pata Zoo has not become worse or better in the years I have been visiting. Everything has remained very much the same.
Pata Zoo does not pretend to be anything other than it is, a zoo on top of a Bangkok department store. On the other hand there is an attempt at education. The cages are clean and the animals appear physically healthy. The bears looked screwed up mentally though. What pisses me off is that many of the bigger, plusher, brighter, purely commercial S.E. Asian Zoos are doing less than Pata. You only need to scratch that very thin veneer.