Menagerie in a department store

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  02. 02. 2015

There must be tens of similar department stores in Bangkok. It is a bit shaggy from outside, but shiny inside and full of goods. The first several floors evoke Prague´s Kotva in its better days. But at the fifth floor starts something which sets the Pata Department Store off from the other ones. There is a ticket office for a zoo, which is located on the 6th and 7th floors, the latter floor being on the roof of the building.

The long rows of terrariums along the windows of the 6th floor, an exhibit with snakes and tortoises or a relatively large nocturne remind us of an extremely enlarged menagerie, something which could be seen 40 years ago at Czech funfairs. Showcases with turtle shells and displayed hatcheries, which should perhaps document how they care for their inmates, give the "zoo" an even bigger touch of bizarreness. And a space for performances with animals, where, among others, an orangutan rode a tricycle - and maybe still does - draws it nearer to the most degraded circus. The 6th floor of the Pata Department Store is simply the materialization of the worst nightmare of any keeper or animal lover. But it is still nothing compared with the following, rooftop floor.

After ascending to the 7th floor and walking through a door, after several steps you appear face to face with an orangutan sitting on a bench. His role is to be photographed with visitors. Other orangutans are in cages and the odd visitors feed them with bread. An orangutan baby, who on first sight appears to be crippled, moves on the ground with terrifying spider-like movements; only on the metal bars does he gain a bit of confidence. Inside of a glassed exhibit stands the last penguin from a once numerous flock. Several sheep are crowded in a small corral and the few flamingos behind them don´t even try to leave the restricted area. Miserable bears are begging for rolls. And I could continue like this for a long, long time. Probably the saddest sight is of a gorilla lying resignedly on a concrete floor. Her name is Bua Noi and she has been living in Pata Department Store since 1987.

To comment on all of that, one would have to use words that could not appear in media. In spite of its name "Pata Zoo" has nothing in common with a zoological garden. It is a horrible menagerie, which hopefully will soon go bankrupt. Unfortunately two other, very similar menageries have been created in department stores in Russia, one in Moscow and the other in St. Petersburg.

And if you are prepared to wave your hands and say that what is possible in Thailand or Russia cannot happen in our country, I want to assure you that even in Czech Republic you can find very bad facilities, although they are not so large and are not placed in a department store.

Menagerie in a department store

Miroslav Bobek, Director, Prague Zoo