Animal programs

Animal attractions in Thailand are running out of money

A tiger at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai | The Nation/Asia Information Network

BANGKOK — Thailand’s elephant and tiger attractions are running out of money and options, say operators, who pleaded for government help on February 13.

The message was delivered at the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, where Tourism Commissioner Sirinthorn Ramsut and MPs from Pheu Thai met with zoo operators to find a way out of the business slowdown caused by COVID-19.

Sirinthorn pointed to the government’s low-interest loan scheme to revive businesses, but said it was still insufficient and difficult to access.

Pasha Rattanaphan, chairman of the Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association, said Thailand’s five tiger attractions were running out of money after failing to secure financial credit from banks.

He added that elephant sanctuaries struggled to get loans because their land was often undocumented. He called on the government to allow sanctuaries to offer their elephants as collateral for loans to buy animal food in the absence of income from tourists.

He also urged authorities to develop sustainable crop projects to feed tigers and elephants.

Managing director of Khum Sue Trakarn, which operates two Tiger Kingdoms in Chiang Mai and one in Phuket, said their revenue had fallen from nearly 1 million baht a day before COVID to zero over the past two years.

“The company still has to bear the burden of feeding and housing the existing 220 tigers,” Kochakorn Chaibutr said. “Before, we had around 400 employees, but today only 30% of the workforce remains. The company still needs working capital for expenses of 4-5 million baht per month. Kochakorn called on the government to find a financial institution that would lend money to his business.

Wittaya Phongsiri, owner of the Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary in Chiang Mai’s Mae Taeng district, said elephant attractions in the northern province have suffered over the past two years from the pandemic.

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