Another zoo in the Bangkok area has been hit as floodwaters continue to swamp the city.
Proprietors at Safari World –among the most popular destinations for families in Bangkok– said they shut down the facility on Thursday after authorities opened a flood gate at a nearby canal following demonstrations by local residents, causing the zoo’s flooding defenses to be overwhelmed.
The animals inside the facility are not at risk of harm —for now. But the situation has forced officials at the 500-acre complex to scramble to find dry ground for the lions, tigers, zebras, giraffes and other animals that roam there. Television footage show giraffes wading in water hoove-deep, and a rhinoceros looking confused at meter-high waters surrounding it.
The complex is the second Bangkok animal park to come under threat in recent weeks, after the city’s popular Dusit Zoo was forced to relocate some of its animals when floodwaters got too close. Safari World is in a particularly vulnerable place, east of Bangkok’s shuttered Don Muang airport in an area of the city that has faced serious, ongoing flooding.
The safari area is also one of a growing number of tourist destinations that have been forced to close or curtail offerings because of Thailand’s worst flooding in decades. Although tour operators stress that many central areas of Bangkok – and tourist sites – remain untouched by the waters, a growing number of tourist sites have had no choice but to shut down temporarily. They include the popular Chatuchak Weekend Market, which closed shop on the weekend of Oct. 29. Chatuchak Weekend Market will reopen on Nov. 5, despite worsening flood conditions around the area. Many of the popular “longtail” boat tours on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river have had to discontinue service amid high tides.
Safari World, which is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, is especially popular with foreign tourists, with its feeding shows, “safari park” car tours, and marine shows. The facility also includes some boxing orangutans, a jungle cruise with “ferocious” gorillas, and a “Hollywood Cowboy Stunt Show” in which “cowboys and bandits jostle for power” with “explosions,” according to the facility’s website.
Litti Kewkacha, Executive Vice President of Safari World, told Southeast Asia Real Time that parts of the complex have been hit by knee-high water, but staff have pushed the animals farther inside the zoo onto higher ground, he said.
The animals are now occupying separate zones designed to eliminate the potential for scuffles —or worse— between the creatures.
Zoo staff are mostly concerned about the “most precious” animals, he said, such as the giraffes, which are not as accustomed to water as other beasts.
But some other animals, like buffaloes and zebras, are “okay” with the water,” Mr. Litti said. “It’s not a problem.” Rhinoceroses are also not perturbed by the floodwaters, he said.
The major concern would be if the floodwaters don’t drain in the coming days and weeks, leaving Safari World closed for a long stretch. Nevertheless, “we’re not evacuating,” Mr. Litti said. In many ways that would present more challenges than staying, he said, due to the logistical issues.
“We have thousands of wild animals, and a big truck can only take five or six giraffes at time.” Finding a place for the animals would be another issue. “Where would you find 500 acres of healthy soil, electricity, staff, medical facilities?” Mr. Litti said. “It’s not feasible.”
The zoo’s marine facilities —which house more than 60,000 fish, as well as dolphins and beluga whales— are so far unaffected, as they are located on higher ground.
“At this moment it’s still dry…but we’re not taking any chances because there are machines there worth 300 million baht,” or $10 million, “and we can’t put a value on the dolphins.”
The zoo is planning to re-open on Nov. 10, Mr. Litti said, but “it’s really day-to-day” at this point.