The authorities launched a major raid at Hua Hin Zoo in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district yesterday, while investigations into the Tiger Temple and the case of stolen rare tortoises continue.
More than 100 wild animals were seized Hua Hin Zoo by the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department (DNP) inspection team, led by Phraya Sua Taskforce commander Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn. The team claims many of the animals in the zoo did not match the licences taken for them.
Chaiwat said the raid revealed that all the protected animals in the zoo had been acquired illegally.
“We inspected the zoo on May 28 and found a couple of suspicious mistakes on two of the elephant licences, so we looked further and found that all the licences for protected animals were fake,” he said.
“According to the licences issued in 2003, all the animals should be over the age of 13, but it turned out that all the animals in question were below the age of 10. This is proof that the zoo forged the official documents and obtained the wild animals unlawfully,” Chaiwat alleged.
“The zoo owner Prakorb Chamnankit is being sued over these accusations,.”
The animals seized from the zoo yesterday include two elephants, two tigers, five Asian black bears, two Malayan sun bears, two deer, one fishing cat and one crocodile. All these animals will be sent to wildlife breeding centres across the country.
He went on to say that staff at this zoo had been arrested twice previously for acquiring protected animals—the first time in 2014 and the second just last month.
Meanwhile, in investigation related to the theft of endangered tortoises from Bang Phra water-bird breeding centre in Chon Buri, the centre’s new chief Padet Laithong said police had found traces of the missing tortoises, but could not reveal details as it may affect the case.
“The police suspect officers in the breeding centre facilitated the tortoises’ theft - or the thief may have acted as a tourist and stolen the tortoises when the officers were not looking,” he said.
Padet added that the animals were stolen during the Songkran holidays when there were too few staff to guard the animals. Also, despite the low security, the centre was open to visitors and there are many exits.
“Security will be stepped up at the centre and CCTV installed to prevent future thefts,” he added.
Meanwhile, in the probe into wildlife trafficking via the Tiger Temple, deputy National Police chief Pol General Chalermkiat Srivorakan disclosed that five people so far were allegedly involved in the illegal possession of the protected wild animals. Three are out on bail as they had surrendered, while another two are on the run.
However, Chalermkiat has not confirmed whether Tiger Temple abbot Phra Vissuthisaradhera (Luang Ta Chan) will be sued, saying the case was still being investigated and it was too early to speculate.
It is also suspected that a businessman known as “Kwuang” was behind the Tiger Temple operation. Chalermkiat said Kwuang was still in Thailand and police would summon him for interrogation soon.
Separately, four tigers have been found in a house owned by Tawat Kachonchaikul and police gathered blood samples to check if they are linked to the tigers at the temple.