A gorilla’s plight in Thailand continues after 30 years in a concrete hell

A gorilla’s disturbing plight in Thailand continues after staying alone atop a Bangkok shopping mall in a zoo that resembles a concrete hell.

Bua Noi, dubbed the “world’s loneliest gorilla” has spent 30 years alone at the top of the Bangkok shopping mall of Pata. Over the years, protests and pressure from celebrity campaigners, such as Cher, have not seemed to do any good.

As tourists flow into the kingdom after the Covid-19 pandemic, the gorilla’s plight entered the spotlight once again. But, all calls to move Bua Noi may still be in vain, as the family who owns the gorilla, haven’t budged.

Bua Noi’s name translates to ‘little lotus,’ but her life has not lived up to her name. It seems the only news lately is that of a 100,000 baht reward for any information leading to the arrest of whoever graffitied ‘Free Bua Noi!’ on one of the mall’s walls.

Despite Thailand’s efforts to shift to the more humane treatment of animals, the zoo represents the stubborn views of the past.

A gorilla's plight in Thailand continues after 30 years in a concrete hell | News by Thaiger
Bua Noi has lived on the top floor of Bangkok’s Pata Mall for 30 years.

Although authorities have passed new environmental legislation, it doesn’t seem to cover privately-owned zoos such as Pata, or non-indigenous animals like Bua Noi. She was reportedly just three years old when she was brought over from Germany in 1992 and has spent the rest of her life behind bars in a dilapidated Thai zoo.

Padej Laithong, director of the national wildlife conservation office, told AFP that the newest laws haven’t been enforced yet.

“[Pata] can still open because the wild animal conservation and protection act zoo section has not been enforced yet.”

Only eight state-linked zoos are subjected to animal welfare laws, with authorities shockingly saying they have skipped over private facilities. Their reasoning is that such facilities may not be able to fulfil licensing requirements.

But, even Padej told the AFP that his main concern with Pata Zoo was not over animal welfare, but rather that the building’s fire safety codes may not be up to par.

“All of these details must be answered before the license can be renewed, suspended or revoked.”

A representative for Pata Zoo did not return multiple requests for comment.

In recent years, the zoo blamed foreigners for the negative press by noting that many zoos worldwide house gorillas with no criticism. But, anyone looking at the zoo or photos can see that living conditions are bleak compared to other zoos around Thailand and the rest of the world.

The zoo management insists the gorilla has been well-cared for throughout her life, despite the creature costing more to support than the money she brought to the table from tourism.

As the numbers add up, especially during the Covid pandemic, the family still refused a 30 million baht offer from Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The reason reported was that the gorilla was ‘too old’ to be rehomed.

As gorillas’ average lifespan is 40 years, Bua Noi has lived most of her life without daylight or nature. PETA even named the zoo “one of the saddest places in the world.”

The organisation went on to say that Bua Noi was “suffering from extreme psychological distress.”

Sadly, there seems to be no end in sight for Bua Noi as her entire life has been spent alone. As gorillas are normally very sociable creatures, they spend most of their lives in a pack.

Bua Noi, however, has spent most of her life alone with only a shoddy swing as her companion.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.