EXPECTED RELOCATION TO PATHUM THANI MET WITH MIXED REACTIONS FROM PUBLIC
THE LAST DAY of the long weekend at Dusit Zoo was busy as usual. Families and couples wandered from one enclosure to the next to see the animals – from flamingos flashing their pink feathers to 51-year-old Mae Mali, Thailand’s oldest hippopotamus, simply enjoying eating the grass.
The scenario has been the same since the zoo was established 79 years ago, allowing people to see its 1,600 exotic animals firsthand and learn about them from educational signage and murals.
But the walls have recently been painted pure white – the first sign of a change to come for Thailand’s most popular zoo, which attracts about 2.5 million visitors a year.
That change will be its relocation, which will be discussed at a meeting today.
The Zoological Park Organisation will meet to decide whether to move the zoo from downtown Bangkok to a 300-rai (48-hectare) property in Khlong Hok, Pathum Thani, about 55 kilometres away.
The plot, granted by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn last week, will be the new venue for the zoo originally built by the late King Chulalongkorn in 1895 as his private garden adjacent to Dusit Palace.
The zoo officially opened in 1938 after the Royal Family gave permission to Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s government to allow public visitors.
Knowing that it will be moved – a process that could take about three years – many visitors yesterday told The Nation that they came for what could be their last chance to enjoy the original ambience of Dusit Zoo.
“This is actually the first time I’ve brought my wife and child to the zoo,” said Jeerapoj Kittichanyapol, 43, who came with his nine-year-old, parrot-loving daughter.
“I just heard the news this morning that the zoo is going to be relocated. Living in Rama I area [in metropolitan Bangkok], I kind of worried that the new place would be very far from my house, so I decided to make it here this long weekend,” Jeerepoj said.
For Kanokwan Potichak, a 36-year-old corporate employee, Dusit Zoo has been a lifetime companion given that she lives just a couple of kilometres away.
“The relocation is quite shocking for me,” she said. “It will be rather boring if it is moved. I will have one less place to go on my days off.”
Anakin Engsirimeechai, a 48-year-old trader, admitted that it was the first time since childhood that he had visited the zoo. “If it wasn’t for the news, I wouldn’t be this keen to come and visit it,” he said, sitting on a grass field besides a standing, sunbathing pelican.
Kittipan Yimprasertsri, a 33-year-old corporate employee, saw things differently, saying that the relocation could be a good opportunity for the zoo’s development.
“I came here to take photos similar to those I used to take when I was young,” Kittipan said with a selfie stick in hand. “The place is sure full of memories, but relocating it to somewhere more spacious will provide more space for the animals as well as facilities for visitors. This zoo has become packed with increasing numbers of animals and visitors.” Adam, a 48-year-old traveller from the United Kingdom, also agreed that larger enclosures would be better for the animals. “With limited space, they will show some signs of stress and it would be quite upsetting to see,” said the first-time visitor.
To entrepreneurs at the zoo, however, moving to new place will mean adjustments to the way they make a living. To Pimpan Khewnoi, a 55-year-old who has been serving noodles at the zoo for three years, the relocation may be more convenient.
“There is no conclusion yet from the zoo but Pathum Thani is not far away from my house,” she said while frying noodles. “Cooking noodles is still my favourite job and I enjoy developing new menus for customers.”
But for 56-year-old Kanya Kaewmanee, who runs a photo souvenir shop, relocation will mean a new job or retirement.
“My shop has been here since my parents opened it in the 1970s. We have occasionally moved out if we failed to win the tender for the site, but I could say that my shop is the oldest in the zoo,” Kanya said.
“The shop is wholly our own. We are not a franchise, so we are not backed by a big company. Relocation would mean a whole new investment. The old-fashioned photo booth is dying anyway. Maybe it will be our time to reconsider changing jobs or I’ll just quit.”