Bangkok shopping mall will free Bua Noi the captive gorilla for 30 million baht

As famous gorilla Bua Noi nears the end of her expected lifespan inside a decrepit Bangkok shopping mall, Thai government officials are making renewed attempts for her to be released. However, the gorilla’s owner said he will only give her up for 30 million baht.

Bua Noi (“Little Lotus”) was brought to Thailand from Germany as a one year old in 1988. She spent almost her entire life in an enclosure on the 7th floor of Pata Pinklao Department Store in Bang Phlat district. She is the only gorilla left in the kingdom.

The elderly gorilla’s mate died over a decade ago, leaving her all alone in the 20 x 10 metre metre glass cage, devoid of greenery. Bua Noi and her mate were the first gorillas to ever be exhibited in Thailand.

The ‘zoo’ inside the mall has been deemed “one of the saddest places in the world” by Senior Vice President of Asia for PETA Jason Baker.

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Baker said the gorilla is “imprisoned with little opportunity for exercise or psychological stimulation, she’s spent decades in isolation, confined between the walls of her concrete cell.”

Petitions lobbying for Bua Noi to be relocated gained a lot of signatures and global attention, yet Bua Noi has been inside the same enclosure for more than 30 years.

Even world-famous singer Cher wrote to Thailand’s environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa in 2020 to express “deep concern” for Bua Noi’s living conditions.

Today, a spokesperson revealed that Varawut wants Bua Noi to be relocated and “experience her homeland and be with other gorillas” before she dies.

Varawut entered discussions with Bua Noi’s owner, who said he would give up the gorilla for a price of 30 million baht (US$783,627).

The spokesperson said the department wishes for Bua Noi to be relocated somewhere to have a better quality of life. He said the Department of Natural Resources still receives concerns about her welfare to this day. However, It wouldn’t be possible for Bua Noi to be released into nature as she would not survive, said the spokesperson.

Returning to Germany and dying around other gorillas would be better than dying alone in a cage, said the spokesperson.

“We have held various activities in the past to lobby for Bua Noi’s release, such as ‘Running for Bua Noi.’ We have collected donations from Bua Noi’s supporters. But the problem has always been that the owner refuses to sell her, and even if he does, the price is too high.”

“The ministry can’t do anything because Bua Noi is considered private property. The owner acquired the gorilla before Thailand introduced laws regulating trading and ownership of endangered or wild animals.”

Since Thailand joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), gorillas are no longer permitted to be brought into Thailand.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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