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Zoos in Thailand
Zoo Visits are a popular activity in Thailand and there are more than enough collections to keep the population happy. I don't suppose anybody really knows how many zoos there are because regulations are quite lax and interpretation of what makes a zoo can be very confusing to those outside the profession. To me a zoo will always remain a collection of wild animmals in captivity no matter if you give it a fancy title like conservation centre, wildlife rescue (or breeding) centre or similar. Someone once told me that there are over 200 zoos in Thailand and I can well believe it.
The identification of zoos within Thailand can be confusing for the Westerner. The Anglicisation of Thai words and the way they are written down is the first problem. Even something as simple as 'Dusit Zoo' could confuse especially if it is written down as 'Du Sit Zoo'. Just that little space, which is common enough could lead one to believe that it was an entirely different collection. At the other end of the scale is 'Nong Nooch Tropical Garden' which does not sound like a zoo at all (but there is one there) and this place is sometimes known as 'Nong Nut'. It really could not sound more different. Then we have the recognised common problem as a zoo being known by two different names as for example London Zoo and Regent's Park Zoo being one and the same. Here it is Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo which is also commonly known as Korat Zoo.
The main recognised zoos are those which belong to the Zoological Park Organisation which come under the patronage of His Majesty the King of Thailand. These are:
Kao Kheow Open Zoo
Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo
These are (practically) the only Thailand Zoos which are guided by a set of principles and are actually involved in breeding programmes, research and genuine conservation. Like zoos everywhere even these reputable collections have their failings which I am sure they would admit to. Anything that is wrong though is small when compared to those very commercialised collections where concern for the animals welfare comes last on the list. Of course not all the commercial zoos are bad, some are excellent and some have just lost their way. Professional, knowledgeable and experienced staff who have trained in genuine conservation minded zoos is the way forward.
I have written individual reports on some of the collections which I have visited below. These are underlined. You may visit them by going to my Hubpage Profile Page and linking out from there. More reports will be added as and when.
One of the free ranging Monitor Lizards in Dusit Zoo
National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department
This is the organisation charged with monitoring of animal collections within the kingdom of Thailand. These are the people who granted the awful Tiger Temple with permission to operate as zoo in spite of the worlds premier conservation bodies acting in unison and asking for the closure of the place.
The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department is the organisation is the focal point for CITES management in Thailand. They implement and monitor the 'Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act'. They do some good too. They were partly instrumental in stopping the Chiang Mai Night Safari from serving up elephant, giraffe, crocodile, dog, lion and tiger meat as part of their buffet menu back in 2005.
Tiger in Dusit Zoo
The Zoological organisation under whose umbrella the Zoos of Thailand falls is SEAZA, the Southeast Asian Zoos Association. Although the aims, aspirations and ethics of such a body are admirable it remains a toothless and clawless tiger with no ability to condemn or correct the many wrongs that one will witness within Thai Zoos. It is shocking that only Dusit Zoo, Korat Zoo and Chiang Mai Zoo are listed as SEAZA members.
Zoos I Have Visited
These are the Thailand Zoos I have visited. Some of them several times.
Khao Kheow Zoo - Chonburi - http://www.kkopenzoo.com/
Siam Ocean World - Bangkok - http://www.siamoceanworld.co.th/
Chiang Mai Zoo - Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Aquarium - Chiang Mai
Elephant Conservation Centre - Chiang Mai - http://www.changthai.com/
Butterfly Farm - Chiang Mai - There are several in the area
Chai Nat National Bird Park - Chai Nat
Shark Hunting Aquarium - Pattaya -
Maesa Snake Farm - Chiang Mai - Also known as 'Mae Sa'. A truly awful place with a small zoo attached.
Chiang Mai Night Safari - Chiang Mai
Pasteur Institute Snake Farm (sometimes known as the Bangkok Snake Farm) - Bangkok - An interesting and educational place. Well worth a visit.
Pata zoo - Bangkok - Truly awful
Songkhla zoo - Songkhla - On a par with Dusit and Chiang Mai. One of the best bear enclosures ever.
Hat Yai zoo - Hat Yai - Small but well maintained.
Rayong Aquarium - Rayong - Very good.
Khao Look Chang Wildlife Rescue Centre - Petchaburi - http://www.wfft.org/ - Excellent set up. Well worth a visit.
Phuket Zoo - Horrible. Should be closed down
Phuket Aquarium - http://www.phuketaquarium.org/ - Nice little place with what must be the shortest underwater tunnel in the world.
Gibbon Rehabilitation Project - Phuket - As an aside it is worth the trip out to go walking in the surrounding jungle. There is not too much to see with the project though.
Phuket Butterfly Gardens and Insect World - - Nice little spot. Don't miss it.
Monster World - Pattaya
SriRacha Tiger Zoo - Sri Racha -
Underwater World - Pattaya -
Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden - Pattaya
Sanctuary of Truth (Dolphins/Elephants) – Pattaya -
Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo – Koh Samui - Awful exploitative money grabbing zoo in a beautiful location
Turtle Conservation Centre - Sattahip
Turtle Conservation Centre - Sri Racha
Mekhong Underwater World - Nakhon Phanom - http://www.nkp-city.com/doopamekong/index.html - Interesting and if you are in the north of Thailand it is worth the effort to visit.
Zoos I Have Not Visited
Bueng Chawak Aquarium and Zoo - Suphan Buri - The Zoo is sometimes referred to as the 'Wildlife Extension Centre'. Though the aquarium appears good a troll through the internet turned up images of people sitting with Orangutans dressed as 'funny little people' and feeding tiger cubs. Animals held include Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Orangutans, Meerkats, Camels, Zebras, Ostriches, Crocodiles, Pythons, and 50 species of bird.
Phitsanulok Thai Bird Garden - Phitsanulok
Nong Khai Aquarium - Khon Kaen - http://moourl.com/p90jz
Oasis Sea World - Chantaburi -
Sampram Elephant Ground and Zoo - Bangkok - http://www.elephantshow.com/eng/home.htm
Songkhla Aquarium - Songkhla
Ubon Zoo and sometimes known as Trakarn Tiger Park is located in Trakarn, some 60 kilometers north of Ubon Ratchathani in the north east corner of Thailand. It specialises in tigers but holds a number of other species - http://www.ubonzoo.com/
Hua Hin Zoo (also known as the Huai Sai Wildlife Captive Breeding Station) - Phetchaburi Province - Malayan Sun Bear, Asiatic Black Bear, Gibbons, Langurs, Macaques, Deer, Tortoises, Porcupines, Birds, Reptiles.
Cha-Am Reptile Farm - Phetchaburi
Chaiyaphum Star Tiger Zoo - Chaiyaphum
Lopburi Zoo and (attached) Monkey Hospital - Lopburi
Safari Park and Resort - Kanchanaburi -
Tiger Temple - Kanchanaburi
Wildlife Breeding Centres
There are those who would argue that a Wildlife Breeding Centre is not a zoo but in fact they are. Not all of the below are open to the public but some of them are. I have visited only one of these (Huai Sai) and it was closed on the day of my visit. I had to content myself by seeing what I could see through the fences. Most will hold a variety of endemic animals. All of those listed below hold bears, either Asiatic Black Bears, Malayan Sun Bears or both. One of these, Bang La Mung, was holding 92 bears in 2006.
Mae Lao Wildlife Breeding Center - Chiengrai - Asiatic Black Bear
Pang Tong Wildlife Breeding Center - Mae Hong Song - Asiatic Black Bear
Huai Yang Parn Wildlife Breeding Center - Chiengmai - Asiatic Black Bear
Am Koi Wildlife Breeding Center - Chiengmai - Asiatic Black Bear
Khao Koa Wildlife Breeding Center - Petchubun - Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear
Pu Khiew Wildlife Breeding Center - Chaichaaphum - Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear
Chong Gum Bon Wildlife Breeding Center - Sakraw - Malayan Sun Bear
Kra Bok Ku Wildlife Breeding Center - Chachangsao - Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear, Gibbons
Bang La Mung Wildlife Breeding Center - Chonburi - Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear
Huai Sai Wildlife Breeding Center - Petburi - Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear
Pang Nga Wildlife Breeding Center - Pang Nga - Asiatic Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear
Khao Prathap Chang Wildlife Breeding Center - Ratchaburi - Breeding and rearing of Tigers as well as Deer and some other animals.
Elephant collections, villages, camps, treks and shows
There are a huge number of places holding elephants in Thailand and I am not going to attempt (though I may one day) to try to list and categorise them all. These places usually offer elephant treks but may also do elephant shows as well. Where there is a captive audience so to speak there is frequently a min-zoo attached as well or perhaps a monkey show. There is a lot of overlap as well as some of the zoos, Dusit, Phuket and Nong Nooch for example do elephant shows as well. Elephants even figure in some stage shows.
As I said at the start, there are reputed to be something in the region of 200 zoos in Thailand. If you have first hand knowledge of an I have missed please provide the details in the comments.
For more on Zoos please take a look at my blog Zoo News Digest the link for which you will find at the bottom of my Profile page.