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Thai PM opens safari park, minus safari animals
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    Thai PM opens safari park, minus safari animals

    Thai PM opens safari park, minus safari animals
    Mon Feb 6, 2006 3:53 PM GMT
    By Ed Cropley

    CHIANG MAI, Thailand (Reuters) - Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra opened Thailand's biggest safari park on Monday, even though the venture, which has been dubbed a 1.1 billion baht ($28 million) white elephant, remains short of safari animals.

    Returning to his home city of Chiang Mai after a weekend of protests calling for his resignation, Thaksin refused to answer questions from reporters about a controversial deal to ship in game from Kenya to populate the "Night Safari" theme park.

    Instead, the telecoms billionaire dwelt on his dream of pumping millions of dollars of government money into the sleepy northern city to transform it into a regional rival of Hong Kong or Singapore, which already has a similar attraction.

    "It will be like Disneyland, but more focused on nature," Thaksin said at a lavish opening ceremony, before disappearing off into the dark to peer at a gibbon hanging listlessly from a tree and two tigers in a metal cage.

    Glossy brochures for the 130 hectare site in foothills outside the city promise an "African savannah" with "harmless animals such as elephants, giraffe and zebras," or a "Predator Prowl" replete with "lions, tigers, Asiatic black bears, hyenas and crocodiles, etc."

    However, on closer inspection, many of the advertised exhibits are missing, despite Thaksin himself lobbying the Kenyan government in November for a shipment of more than 100 safari animals in return for "technical assistance."

    After an uproar from conservationists, who said it was akin to poaching, Kenya said it would only export "animals that we have in plenty, such as flamingos, wildebeest and the African buffalo."

    Nairobi also refused to set a date for any shipment, and ruled out sending animals covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

    OUTRAGE

    "The idea of poaching wildlife in the jungles and fields of Kenya to put into a small enclosure in northern Thailand for the sole purpose of turning it into a tourist hub is outrageous," said Edwin Wiek of green group Wildlife Friends of Thailand.

    Reported comments -- later retracted -- by zoo boss Plodprasop Suraswadi suggesting visitors would be able to dine on tiger, lion, elephant and giraffe, only fueled the outrage against a nation regarded as a hub of the illegal wildlife trade.

    The Kenyan controversy is not the first to blight the project, which is just one phase of a planned 4 billion baht "Mega project" cash injection for Chiang Mai.

    Plodprasop has been challenged to shoulder financial responsibility for a project crictics say is destined for failure, and local media have reported nearby orchards overrun by Asian elephants whose mahouts have been promised a starring role.

    "All our dreams and efforts to make a living from this orchard are completely destroyed," farmer's wife Dawan Saosena told the Bangkok Post. "Now we can't even get inside our orchard because we are afraid of the strangers and their animals."

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    Chiang Mai Night Safari officially opened and selling commercial tickets
    ThaisNews, Thailand - Feb 2, 2006

    Chiang Mai Night Safari has been officially opened since yesterday and is now selling commercial tickets, after its public trial period that started since November.

    Chiang Mai Night Safari is the first night-time zoo in Thailand. The zoo has announced its daytime operating time of between 1 pm and 4 pm for Mondays through Fridays and between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon during weekends. For night-time operation, the Night Safari opens from 6 pm till midnight everyday.

    Animal zones are currently divided into 2 sections, comprising the "Savanna Zone" which house herbivores and the "Predator Prowl" that house the predatory animals. Tickets are sold at 250 baht for adults and 125 baht for children.

    However foreign adults are charged 500 baht and foreign children have to pay 300 baht.

    Since its unofficial opening in November last year, the Night Safari welcomed 1.35 million visitors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sawatdee
    Glossy brochures for the 130 hectare site in foothills outside the city promise an "African savannah" with "harmless animals such as elephants, giraffe and zebras." However, on closer inspection, many of the advertised exhibits are missing.
    And they want to charge foreigners 500 baht for something that isn't ready? And probably won't be as no-one wants to send their animals to Thailand.

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    Yeah Richard, ain't that crazy?

    The Night Safari is one place I'm not going to see here. Not only due to this blatant rip-off of foreigners for incomplete service, but mainly because of their controversial disregard of proper animal trade and treatment. Apparently, they don't show any more concern towards the welfare of locals either. Last, but not least, I detest turning Chiang Mai into a Disneyland of any sort. I hope the PM will be ousted before more aspects of this lunatic plan become reality.
    Last edited by SiamJai; 07-02-06 at 05:04 PM.

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    Far Out, And that zoo, even if stocked will never draw back the tourists that have, for years came to CM to see an old historic city with wooden buildings, Temples and not a traffic clogged smoggy metropolis with so much pollution that you can't even see the tops of the concrete bildings that stand where old wooden houses used to be.

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    Chiang Mai as a "sleepy northern city"?
    wow.

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    lol, I had the same thought, Betti. I guess, to us, it's the largest city of the region, but Chiang Mai is sleepy, when compared to Singapore and Hong Kong.

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    nice avatar SiamJai so that's your Thai name, right?
    as for Singapore... don't even mention it. gives me the creeps and the weeps.
    HongKong is not as crazy as Bangkok, far from it. actually you take a ferry from the heart of the city and in twenty mins you're out in the countryside, mountains and beaches and not a house in sight. you take the cablecar up to Victoria Peak, and you find peaceful walking trails. there are lots of parks and green spaces.

    both Singapore and HongKong are defined by the lack of space and resources, so they had to end up building highrises. ChiangMai's position, situation and problems are very different. I hope Thaksin will resort to messing up everything here once he is ousted from power

    I think these ticket prices will keep most tourists away. after all, those who are interested in animals can visit the ChiangMai Zoo for the fraction of the price. they are also running nighttime programs (Twilight Zoo), an initiative to compete with the night safari. and the pandas at the Zoo still give them a competitive edge, well, judging from the queues and the prevailing panda-mania.

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    Remember those orang-utans that were seized from Safari World in Bangkok? There was a lot of world outrage about their treatment there and whether they should be returned to their native country as they were illegal (see story). Well, gues where they have now turned up? According to the The Nation this morning, 58 orangutans will soon be heading for the Night Safari. I wonder if they will end up on the menu (see previous story).

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    HongKong is not as crazy as Bangkok, far from it.
    I've never been to Hong-Kong actually; thanks for the info! Seems to be a nicer place that I thought it to be.

    nice avatar SiamJai so that's your Thai name, right?
    Yes, the avatar is based on my Thai nick, glad you like it. Made it yesterday morning before going to work, as an afterthought of a conversation here. ;-)

    I think these ticket prices will keep most tourists away.
    Yes, the ticket price is definitely too much, ain't it? Doesn't make much sense, considering the competition that you just mentioned. Perhaps they priced it this way assuming that the rich farang tourists won't mind a few hundred baht difference, which could be true... However, it will keep away most local farang, for sure.

    Richard, I've read speculation about the fate of these orangutans as early as the SafariWorld bust. Some smart journos already predicted that the smuggled animals will end up here in Night Safari, citing some connection between the ownership of the two venues. Well, this is Thailand too. :(
    Last edited by SiamJai; 09-02-06 at 10:28 AM.

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