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Smuggled orangutans flown out of kick-boxing theme park
November 22, 2006, 8:16 pm
Filed under: Orangutan stories

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Apes to be returned to Indonesia this week

Forty-eight orangutans smuggled into the country from Indonesia are set to be returned on Wednesday, officials said yesterday. The endangered apes have been waiting for months to return home since veterinarians confirmed they were captured in the wild in Indonesia and not born in captivity as their Thai owners had claimed.

The apes were seized from Safari World Zoo in Bangkok in a raid after forestry police and environmental groups suspected the orangutans had been smuggled into Thailand from northern Sumatra.

All of the animals have had medical check-ups and are in good health and ready to be sent back, said Pornchai Pratumratnatan, chief of Khao Pratap Chang Wildlife Rescue Centre in Ratchaburi province.

Thai wildlife officials are waiting for their Indonesian counterparts to send more cages for the apes, he said, warning that the transfer had to be carried out with great care to avoid causing the animals too much stress. The wildlife rescue centre has served as temporary shelter for the apes since 2005 while a team of Indonesian veterinarians conducted DNA tests on the animals to identify their origins. The test results contradicted the zoo’s earlier claim that many of the orangutans were born in captivity.

Forestry police have already charged the zoo owner for illegally possessing the orangutans. The zoo once had 101 orangutans in its possession. However, in 2004 nearly
half of them died under suspicious circumstances.

The zoo owner claimed they died from pneumonia but police suspected they may have been moved or killed ahead of a police inspection at the zoo.

Meanwhile, four koalas given to Thailand by Australia are set to arrive at Chiang Mai airport on Wednesday and be taken to Chiang Mai Zoo, said Sophon Damnui, director-general of the Zoological Park Organisation. Zoo officials are preparing eucalyptus varieties and a new shelter for the cuddly marsupials to make them feel at home, he said. The shelter, which will be open to the public from early next month, has been designed to imitate their native environment.

Bangkok Post

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