The owner of the gorilla, the Pata Pinklao Department Store, on Saturday, rejected the suggestion that Bua Noi was for sale or that there had been any discussion or proposals with a third party despite a statement by the secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Thanespol Thanaboonyawat, proposing that the gorilla’s freedom could be bought for ฿30 million and that she should be returned to a more natural environment with other gorillas in Germany after nearly forty years in Thailand where she first came with her male partner in early 1983 when the urban zoo opened.

The fate of Thailand’s last gorilla, Bua Noi, is occupying the mind of Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment which, on Friday, floated a proposal to purchase the animal from her enclosure in a high-rise zoo in the city situated on the seventh floor of a department store for ฿30 million. The secretary to the minister, Varawut Silpa-Archa, had suggested that fundraising could be organised to raise the money to send Bua Noi back to Germany where she was bred to spend her final days with other gorillas in a better environment. On Saturday, the owner of the gorilla who just missed legal protection under the UN’s Washington Convention in 1983 by a matter of months, rejected any proposition that she was for sale and questioned the desirability of her moving out of her current environment.

Bua Noi, Thailand’s last gorilla, pictured at the Pata Zoo at the Pata Pinklao Department Store on the 6th and 7th floor of a high-rise building in the Bang Phlat area of downtown Bangkok where she has lived since she came to Thailand nearly 40 years ago. A proposal from senior officials within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to purchase her freedom for ฿30 million and return her to an environment in Germany with other gorillas sparked a negative response from her owner on Saturday.

A controversial Thai zoo in Bangkok, on Saturday, denied reports circulated on Friday by a representative of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment that it was negotiating to sell Thailand’s last gorilla who lives at the facility and whose plight has for decades been a source of concern both to the public and in recent times, government officials.

Bua Noi, which means in Thai, Little Lotus, is a female gorilla, confirmed officially as the last of her species in Thailand, who lives in a high rise located at the Pata Pinklao Department Store on the 6th and 7th floor of a high-rise building in the Bang Phlat area of downtown Bangkok. 

Unusual zoo, founded in 1983, on two floors of a high-rise building and department store in downtown Bangkok where Bua Noi is the best-known attraction

It is an unusual establishment, founded in 1983, with the gorilla being one of the longest and most popular attractions.

On Friday, Thanespol Thanaboonyawat, the secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Varawut Silpa-Archa, suggested that his ministry is in discussions with the owners of the Pata Zoo within the Bangkok departments store to purchase the gorilla for a price of ฿30 million.

The official appeared to indicate that this was the price fixed upon by the department store whose current management has run the concern since 2020 and that such funding would be raised by the ministry through charitable events such as runs as well as donations to the public.

Plan to return the gorilla to Germany to be in a nicer environment with other gorillas before she dies

Mr Thanespol spoke of returning Bua Noi to Germany where she had been originally bred so that she could spend her final years and die in the company of other gorillas while pointing out that, at 43 years of age now, she had entered old age given that the life expectancy for female gorillas is normally 40 to 50 years.

The minister’s secretary expressed unease at the plight of the gorilla who, it is reported, lives in a space 20 metres long and 10 metres wide at the facility after her mate, a male gorilla, died shortly after the pair arrived originally from Germany.

The ministry, on Friday, drew attention to the ongoing complaints that have been received about Bua Noi’s plight and the zoo for wildlife creatures where she lives, in the heart of Bangkok’s metropolis, in a high rise urban environment.

‘The ministry and the Zoological Park Organisation have received many complaints from people that Bua Noi has lived in her cage for more than 30 years. It would be better if Bua Noi could see other gorillas back in her original home in Germany, instead of dying alone in a cage,’ Mr Thanespol explained on Friday.

Official investigations into the zoo have never found any evidence of wrongdoing, agencies precluded from taking action against it to seize Bua Noi

It is understood that the ministry and other official agencies have, from time to time, investigated the operation of the urban zoo and found that it complies with all laws applicable in the kingdom and are therefore precluded from taking action against it despite public opinion and concern.

In relation to Bua Noi and the other species being held within the two-floor zoo, it is understood that she was purchased by the private zoo legally before it opened in early 1983, some months before Thailand became a contracting party to the Washington Convention or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES), a law adopted by the United Nations in 1975 and which bans the commercial trade of wildlife.

The gorilla is legally the private property of the Bangkok zoo.

Zoo issues robust response to the ministry official on Saturday forcefully denying any consideration of a financial offer for the kingdom’s last gorilla

On Saturday, in a robust response to the minister’s secretary, posted on the Facebook page of the zoo, the operators completely refuted any claims that they had agreed to sell Bua Noi or put a price on what they called the ‘cherished’ animal.

They also questioned both the desirability and feasibility of moving the gorilla from her present habitat which they described as disease free while also pointing out that the zoo spent ฿10,000 a month to take care of Bua Noi.

The zoo took particular issue with claims that the gorilla was being imprisoned at the facility and accepted that there are people with different opinions on what would be best for Bua Noi.

The statement accepted that the gorilla was entering her final years but said that, in reality, she would not be able to easily adjust to any other form of life or change of surroundings at this point.

‘Most cherished’ animal is not for sale

The statement made it quite clear also that the gorilla is not for sale even though the zoo operates at a loss.

She was a ‘most cherished’ animal said the zoo operators and denied that such a proposition, as floated on Friday relating to her sale, had ever been entertained or even raised by a third party.

‘It’s a very sensitive matter to raise a gorilla to survive in a zoo. Over the past years, Thailand has proven to be successful,’ the Pata Zoo management explained. ‘Now, Bua Noi is entering old age for her species. Pata Zoo constantly holds meetings to take good care of the animal as we are fully aware that Bua Noi, the country’s last gorilla, could die at any time, due to her old age.’

The Pata Zoo can be found at the Pata Pinklao Department Store in the Bang Phlat District of Bangkok.

On the sixth floor, there is a display of what are termed nocturnal animals such as reptiles and amphibians.

Public campaign in 2014 to shut the two-storey zoo which also features an albino python, a giant stingray and leopards as well monkeys and orangutans

Among the creatures on display here is a giant freshwater stingray, the largest in the world as well as an albino Burmese python.

On the next floor, the seventh, where Bua Noi lives, there are orangutans and monkeys together with black bears, tigers, leopards and a black panther.

The facility was the subject of a campaign in September 2014 to have it closed with 35,000 signatures being submitted to government agencies. 

Afterwards, the Director-general of the Department of National Parks said that following an investigation, it was found that the zoo was operating to the required standard and was not guilty of any wrongdoing under the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act.

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