Thailand's animal sanctuary's suffer from no tourism - may have to give away wildlife

28 Aug 2020

As the pandemic hits the tourist-reliant economy of Thailand, animal parks from animal sanctuaries to elephant camps and tiger farms feel pain and may even have to give away wildlife, the manager of an animal refuge said.


The Thailand Wildlife Friends Foundation seeks to save abandoned or abused animals in Thailand, but the organization is suffering from coronavirus constraints.


"We have had zero tourists for the last six months and lost about 75% of our income," said Edwin Wiek, founder of the sanctuary, about 170 km southwest of Bangkok on land donated by a nearby temple.


Wiek also spent four days and nights in a cage once home to chimpanzees to collect $25,000 to help feed and support others waiting for the help of the foundation.


"The animal parks around Thailand are a much bigger problem than I see coming up now ... They have zero income and start thinking about giving away their livestock,' Wiek said.


Thailand received a record 39.8 million tourists in 2019 but the government predicts just 8 million this year, with borders locked. Since 1998 the economy could experience the highest contraction.


The sanctuary, which has more than $4,000 a month in animals and expenses, usually relies on volunteers but now has just one.


Rhi Menmuir, 22, has spent seven months at the shelter, helping to prepare animal feed twice a day.


"I noticed a change that the quality of the food has declined a little," said Menmuir, who is from Scotland.


Wiek said the need to take on more animals has compromised standards of care, and the sanctuary has enough funds to last for six to eight weeks.


"Quantity of animals against the quality of care is a problem that worries me seriously," Wiek said.