Eleven tigers and two bears to be saved as zoo closes

Eleven tigers and two bears to be saved as zoo closes
Thai venue where visitors saw ‘emaciated’ and ‘abused’ animals shuts during pandemic

Rescuers are preparing to save 11 tigers and two bears that have spent their lives in chains at a Thai zoo that is closing after years of claims of neglect.

Footage of one of the tigers caused global outrage last year when people saw how she repeatedly paced back and forth tethered by a neck chain so short that she could not even lift her head properly.

At other times, the animal was tied to a small platform to allow tourists to sit beside her and pose for photographs.

Phuket zoo is reportedly being forced to close because visitor numbers have dropped during the Covid lockdowns.

In April last year, western tourists said they were horrified to see animals they claimed were starving and had been abandoned at the zoo.

An underweight tiger

Their footage posted on YouTube showed a tiger cowering and moving as though in pain, then howling, clearly suffering.

Visitors said a pool for reptiles was filthy and alligators “had been left for dead…they were just in s*** conditions”.

Now rescue organisation and sanctuary Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT) is fundraising to save the 11 tigers, including the tethered one in the video that went viral, and two bears.

The group, which runs a wildlife hospital and a dedicated elephant hospital, wants to rehome the animals in what will be the biggest tiger rescue in Thailand’s history.

In 2019, an investigation at Phuket zoo by the Moving Animals photojournalism group found an emaciated baby elephant forced to bang her head to rave music, “play” musical instruments and perform tricks under the threat of being hit with a sharp hook.

“Dumbo” later died after his weak back legs snapped beneath him.

Edwin Wiek, founder and director of WFFT, said: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we have received more calls than ever from entertainment venues who cannot afford to feed their animals any more.

“We try to help as many as we can. The fact is, though, that without financial support, we cannot help more.

One of the bears due to be rescued

“We must prepare enclosures, rescue and commit to the lifelong care of these animals.”

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