BANGKOK (The Nation): The owner of Safari World and Phuket FantaSea will be charged with illegally importing orangutans, Forestry Police commander Maj Gen Sawek Pinsinchai said yesterday.
Safari World and FantaSea managing director and owner Pin Kiewkacha is accused of violating provision 23 of the Wildlife Conservation Law by importing orangutans without permission, and provision 53 for concealing the wildlife.
The two offences are punishable by up to four years in jail and a 40,000-baht fine. K. Pin will be summoned to face his charges twice, and if he does not turn up an arrest warrant will be issued, Gen Sawek said.
A team of Indonesian forestry officials and police were due to tour Safari World, on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok, this morning to inspect the orangutans seized by police late last year, which have been kept in captivity at the zoo.
Forestry Police who raided the zoo found 115 orangutans, five of which have since died. The zoo claims it had permission to possess them.
Dr Widodo S. Ramono, Director of Conservation Areas at the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, said Indonesia will request that DNA tests be performed on the orangutans to determine whether they are from Indonesia.
“We suspect the orangutans in Safari World were illegally smuggled from Borneo. Farmers there fell trees for plantations, and they probably sold the wildlife,” Dr Widodo said.
K. Pin said the orangutans – only about a dozen of which were registered – were either bred in the zoo or were donated. But activists say there is no way the small number of females legally registered at Safari World could have bred so many babies, given that well over half of them are only a few years old.
Gen Sawek said officials at Kasetsart University would test the DNA of the orangutans, adding that it would not initially be necessary for the Indonesian team to do so.
At a press conference, Thai and Indonesian wildlife groups spoke of the urgent need for an Asean taskforce to combat the illegal wildlife trade. They also discussed a raid conducted several days ago by Forestry Department officials on the Wildlife Friends Rescue Centre in Phetchaburi.
The Foundation’s Edwin Wiek said legal advisers for Bangkok MP Siri Wongboonkerd believe the raid was illegal and told him (Wiek) he should lodge an official complaint.
“Gen Sawek refused to arrest me today, and virtually said I’d done nothing wrong,” he said later.
He added that he believed the raid was conducted to intimidate him and other wildlife activists into ceasing their campaigning about the orangutans at Safari World.
Bangkok will stage a major conference on the trade in endangered species in October.
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