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Monkey World News

Forty kickboxing apes may have died

Times Online

BRITISH conservationists who last week helped to secure a crackdown on kickboxing matches between orang-utans at a Thai wildlife park have warned that the ban may have come too late to save dozens of the endangered apes.

Police are investigating reports that more than 40 orang-utans may have died at Safari World, near Bangkok.

If confirmed, the deaths will embarrass the Thai government as it prepares to host an international conference this autumn on protecting endangered species.

Police have so far found only 74 of the 115 orang-utans counted at the park by representatives of a British ape sanctuary who last year conducted an undercover investigation into the smuggling of the species into Thailand.

Jim and Alison Cronin, directors of Monkey World in Dorset, have urged Elliot Morley, the environment minister, to consider boycotting the 13th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

They have offered to pay 100,000 towards the estimated 1m cost of sending the surviving Safari World apes back to their native Indonesia. Unless smuggling ceases, they say, orang-utans could become extinct in the wild.

Orang-utans in Thailand have been trained not only to box but to play music and dress up as characters such as Spider-Man. Behind the scenes, however, many are kept cooped up in cages in dark rooms, unable to lie down or stand up fully.

Safari World denied any wrongdoing. I dont have anything to do with smuggling, said Pin Kewkacha, the parks managing director. A spokesman said only that the unique daily show of orang-utan boxing is over.

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