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Update on Thai orangutan scandal

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  • Michelle Desilets
    Dear Friends of the Orangutan, A sample letter/email follows this update. In response to our plea for emails to be sent calling on the Thai authorities to
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 30, 2005
      Dear Friends of the Orangutan,
      A sample letter/email follows this update.
      In response to our plea for emails to be sent calling on the Thai authorities to resolve the problem of the smuggled orangutans in their country, a small number of supporters have queried our statement that the Thai government kills orangutans.
      Assuming these orangutans in Thai captivity are not committing suicide, someone must be held
      accountable for killing them; they are not dying of natural causes. The alternative is 'we' just accept such deaths as unfortunate, and hold no one responsible. Keeping them in crowded cages and providing poor care, under which many orangutans have died, is effectively killing them. It’s an indisputable death sentence. The Thais have had more than two years to send them back - the orangutans have died at their hands and this need not have happened. Others are spirited away - including the 22 sent illegally to Cambodia. There is no point in talking to the Thai government about humane treatment, etc - they do not understand this. All direct attempts at cordial dialogue with the Thai government have met with their silence.
      It's time for those who care to come speak up for the orangutans.
      Below is a recent report from the Director of BOS Canada regarding his recent visit to Safari World:
      “Update: Safari World Orangutans
      November 2005: Bangkok, Thailand
      What is happening with the Orangutans at Safari World?
      For over two years now Safari World zoo in Bangkok, Thailand has been at the center of a scandal, which concerns up to 147 illegally obtained orangutans from the forests of Indonesia. These orangutans were used for entertainment in ‘kick-boxing’ shows at the park.
      An investigation, DNA testing and the fact that Safari World had no permits for the orangutans put a focus on having the illegally held apes returned to Indonesia, but during the past two years, nothing has happened.
      The owner of Safari World, Pin Kiewkacha, has to date not been officially charged and jailed for his crimes in the illegal wildlife trade. Up to fifteen orangutans have reportedly died during the two years and an unknown amount have been relocated away from the Safari World site.
      With all the media attention on the Safari World Orangutans, you would think the Thai government would have acted by now to resolve the issue of releasing the illegally held orangutans. In fact, one would think to repair the damage done by Safari World’s blatant breach of the CITES convention, and that the Safari World case is a major embarrassment for Thailand, the government would make this situation a higher priority, yet such does not seem to be the case.
      Much campaigning continues to have the orangutans released. On a recent trip to Thailand, I visited Safari World to see if any additional information could be found to help the plight of this situation.
      Upon arriving I introduced myself and asked if a visit to view the orangutans could be arranged. Quickly it was obvious I was not going to be allowed to do so and was told the exhibit was closed and that Safari World had no orangutans for me to see.
      At the exhibit entrance a sign read, ‘Show Closed’. The entrances to the stage were all blocked with a huge signs and barriers. I asked again to see the orangutans but was denied on several occasions by various staff rangers. My inquiries fell on deaf ears and no information was given as to the orangutans on site.
      I decided later to enter behind the stage area and found that no apparent renovations were taking place as some of the signs had stated. The boxing gloves used in the show still lay on stage. The ‘kick-boxing’ show has been closed for now due to the attention it has warranted, but signs do state that they are preparing for a ‘new’ show.
      Further looking around brought me to a restricted area with several cages. I counted 36 orangutans in all, including a large male. Later, two very young orangutans in a separate cage in yet another area were found, these sitting in total darkness clutching each other and seemed to be no more than two years old from what I could tell. Most cages held more than one orangutan. I did not find any other orangutans on site during my visit.
      This situation must not be ignored and pressure on the Thai government by organizations for the repatriation of the illegally held orangutans must continue. Attention must also continue on Safari World’s ‘kick-boxing’ show so that it may never again surface as part of an attraction.
      The orangutans do not belong to Safari World or Thailand. They belong in the forests of Indonesia.
      How much longer will the Thai government ignore this situation?
      Jim Helmer
      Director
      BOS Canada
      www.boscanada@...”
      Photos are available.
      Both these letters were published this week by Thailand's Bangkok Post newspaper:
      What's up with Lop Buri Zoo?
      The Lop Buri Zoo is allegedly attempting to exchange five orangutans individually or otherwise, with other small Thai zoos, for birds and/or smaller mammals. Coming as this does one week after the zoo was given international publicity, the timing of such a move may be nothing more than a coincidence.
      However, until such time as the Department of Forestry and Conservation confirms the original origin of these orangutans, the suspicion will always be that they were illegally imported. Moving them now would only add weight to this suspicion. If these orangutans are moved before their origin is confirmed by an international authority, we will find them, and hold those concerned personally responsible for the lives of this endangered and internationally protected species.
      The eyes of the world are on Thailand - and will be until such time when all illegally imported orangutans are returned to Indonesia. If any more die in the meantime, Thailand's government will be able to add "Orangutan Killers" to its likely forthcoming award of "Wildlife Trafficking Country of the World." How does this sound to you, Prime Minister?
      SEAN WHYTE
      Editor, "Rainforests" magazine

      Return our animals
      I represent ProFauna, Indonesia's leading wildlife protection organisation. Two years ago, the Thai government acted with commendable speed in confiscating illegally obtained orangutans from Safari World.
      Since then, all that appears to have happened is that some orangutans have died of a mysterious illness, others have been moved elsewhere in Thailand and, amazingly, 22 orangutans were illegally exported to an amusement park in Cambodia.
      I call on the government of Thailand to please return all the illegally obtained orangutans to my country. We have tried hard to work with the Forestry and Conservation Department but they show no interest in the orangutans' well-being.
      Will the people of Thailand join us calling on your Prime Minister to stop killing the orangutans and return them to Indonesia now?
      HARDI BAKTIANTORO
      Coordinator of the Campaign Division
      ProFauna Indonesia

      The Nation published 2 letters as well:
      “AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF THAILAND

      Sir,

      It is now two years since over 100 highly endangered orang-utans were discovered by your authorities at Safari World, Bangkok. Some of which were subsequently declared 'legal' by the same authorities. The majority were, however, proven to have been illegally obtained. Since when, some of the illegally obtained orang-utans have either died or disappeared.

      At the time of writing over 50 of these animals are being imprisoned in government cages - when they should in fact be back in the forests of Indonesia. Another 30 plus, orang-utans, are being kept in cramped cages back at Safari World.

      All attempts, so far, to obtain any kind of explanation as to why the delay in returning the orang-utans to Indonesia have so far met with silence from your Forestry and Police Departments. In the meantime, more orang-utans 'disappear' (like those sent to Lopburi zoo), and others die.

      This scandal, on top of the one involving exchanging Thai elephants for Australian animals, and also your attempts to take animals from the plains of Africa for the zoo in Chang Mai, is rapidly gaining Thailand the distinction of the "Wildlife Trafficking Country of the World".

      I just thought readers might like to know this is the reputation Thailand is gaining internationally, courtesy of your Prime Minister.

      Yours sincerely,

      Sean Whyte
      Editor
      "Rainforests" magazine


      P.S. Does anyone know if the new Chang Mai Night Safari zoo has any orang-utans and, if so, where did they come from?”
      “Sir

      re. Orang-utans / Lopburi Zoo

      Since my letter was published last week, The Lopburi Zoo is alleged to be attempting to exchange the
      five orang-utans individually or otherwise, with other small Thai zoos, for birds and/or smaller mammals.

      The timing may be a coincidence. However, until such time as the Thai Department of Forestry and Conservation confirm the original origin of these orang-utans, the suspicion will always be they were
      illegally imported. Moving them now would only add weight to this suspicion. If the orang-utans are moved before their origin is confirmed by an international authority, we will find them, and hold those concerned personally responsible for the lives of this endangered and internationally-protected species.

      The eyes of the world are on Thailand - and will be until such time as all illegally imported orang-utans are returned to Indonesia. If any more die in the meantime, Thailand's government will be able to add "Orang-utan Killers" to its likely award of "Wildlife Trafficking Country of the World" . How does this sound to you Prime Minister?

      Yours sincerely

      Sean Whyte
      Chief Executive nature Alert
      Editor "Rainforests" magazine”


      A sample letter/email you may want to use or adapt:

      Attn:
      Mr. Damrong Phidet, Director General
      Mr. Schwann Tunikorn, Deputy Director General
      Mr. Vikrom Koompirochana, Ambassador
      Dear Sirs:
      I am sure that you are very busy conducting your affairs, so I would like to thank you in advance for taking the time to read my letter.
      I was recently informed that there are between 50-100 orangutans being sold for illegal commerical use in Thailand. I, along with the members of my organization, am deeply concerned for their safety and
      well-being. As I am sure you are well aware, orangutans are extremely endangered in the wild. This is true for both those in Sumatra as well as those in Kalimantan (Borneo). As such, any orangutans being sold in Thailand for entertainment purposes ought to be immediately returned home to Indonesia or Malaysia, where they rightfully belong. These creatures are precious-- and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
      As you are also certainly aware, infant orangutans are acquired by drastic means. They are not simply handed over by their mothers, just as no human mother would willingly give up her baby. Illegal poachers undoubtedly had to kill the mothers in order to confiscate the infants. This is an unimaginably cruel practice and must be stopped.
      While there are undoubtedly powerful commercial interests at stake, we must not forget that we are dealing with living creatures who are utterly defenseless. They deserve better than to be transported
      illegally into Thailand, where they will be forced to entertain tourists or face immediate punishment or possibly even death.
      The money needed to repatriate them is available, so why are the orangutans not being returned? What is to be gained by keeping them? Could you please answer these questions for me?
      I look forward to hearing from you soon and I wish you all the best in the coming year.
      Sincerely,
      Your name

      If you are uncomfortable with the subject line suggested in previous emails, please feel free to write your own.
      Please, if you haven’t already done so, visit and sign the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/822035733.

      As always, thank you for all your support in this important matter.
      Best wishes for a Happy New Year.
      Michelle Desilets
      Director
      Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK





      Michelle Desilets
      Director
      BOS UK
      www.savetheorangutan.org.uk
      www.savetheorangutan.info
      "Primates Helping Primates"

      Please sign our petition to rescue over 100 smuggled orangutans in Thailand:
      http://www.thePetitionSite.com/takeaction/822035733

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