A menagerie is not a zoo

News

12. 11. 2018


It’s quite incredible. In a rather dingy department store you take the lift to the top floor and it opens onto one of the most appalling menageries in the world. It is located in Bangkok, Thailand, on the top floor of the Pata Department Store. I first visited this menagerie more than three years ago and at the time I wrote:

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“After a few steps from the door on the seventh floor you come face to face with an orangutan sitting on a bench. His job is to be photographed with visitors. Other orangutans are in cages and countless visitors feed them pastries. In the glass cabinet stands the last penguin from a once large flock. Some sheep are pressed together in a tiny pen, behind them there are a few flamingos that are no longer trying to leave their cramped space. Pitiful bears beg for scraps. I could go on, and on and on…. However, perhaps the saddest sight is that of the gorilla; he lies resignedly on the concrete floor. His name is Bua Noi and he has been all alone in the Pata Department Store since 1987.”

Quite recently, I paid another visit to the “Pata Zoo” - its very name is a slap in the face for zoos - when I was in Bangkok for a conference held by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). In essence, nothing has changed. However, Jane Goodall was at the conference, she spoke about the role of zoos and couldn’t avoid talking about the Pata Zoo. She called it a prison for animals. Two days later, there was a WAZA resolution calling for the closure of this facility.

Naturally, the question is, “What will be the outcome of adopting the resolution?” However, I wanted to use the example of the Pata Zoo to remind you of what I have already written about in other contexts, but what I consider to be of the utmost importance: a real zoo must, to the greatest possible extent, respect all the needs of the animals it keeps and create the best possible conditions for them. Its main aim, besides awareness raising and education, is to protect endangered species and their environment. The animals in a zoo are wildlife ambassadors, not toys or puppets for our amusement, and certainly not a commercial article.

Please bear this in mind when travelling, be it at home or abroad.

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Miroslav Bobek
Director of Prague Zoo