Monkey World assists governments around the world to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild.

At the Centre refugees of this illegal trade as well as those that have suffered abuse or neglect are rehabilitated into natural living groups.

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Rescue Information - Thailand

Illegal Wildlife Trade Dossier Thailand 2001/3

This undercover investigation was initiated following several reports that Monkey World had received regarding wild caught, endangered primates that had been smuggled for illegal trading in Thailand. Specifically, Monkey World was contacted by HM Customs and Excise to re-home a confiscated primate that one Raymond Humphries had smuggled from Bangkok to Britain. The gibbon (Hylobates gabriellae) had most likely originated in Vietnam and was smuggled into Bangkok and then onto Britain. Mr Humphries’ wildlife was confiscated, he was found guilty of illegal trading in protected species, and received a six-year jail sentence. At the same time a Thai national, Peera Jungthirapanich, was also found guilty and sentenced. Monkey World began an investigation into the illegal wildlife trade in Thailand.

Thailand 2001

  • The team of primate and wildlife experts from Monkey World and Pingtung Rescue Centre, Taiwan traveled to Bangkok, Chaing Mai, and Mae Sot to look in markets, wildlife parks, rescue centers, and roadside menageries.
  • At Chatuchak Sunday Market, Bangkok the team found many birds, reptiles, fish, and small mammals for sale. Many of the species should have been protected under CITES.
  • The market situation was so terrible and overwhelming that the team decided that they would need to return to conduct more in-depth investigations.
  • In Chaing Mai they went to the “Monkey Training School” where they found several dozen macaques, mostly pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina), and two lar gibbons (Hylobates lar). The conditions for these animals were terrible. They were tied to posts and hardly able to move. Both of the species listed above are native to Thailand

  • In Mae Sot, the team went to Highland Farm Gibbon Sanctuary. Here a couple were re-homing gibbons that had been taken from the wild that their illegal owners had grown tired of. Highland Farm is a good and honest institution that was not trading illegally. However, the number of gibbons they received, many of which were not native to Thailand, indicated that there is a large trade in illegal gibbons in Thailand.
  • While in the North-west, the team visited Wat Don Moun. Once again the monks at Wat Don Moun are good people that are not trading in wildlife, yet many people leave their illegal wild animals with them. At the temple the team found gibbons, macaques, binturong, wild boar, deer, porcupines, and birds of prey. The animals were kept in terrible conditions but the monks cared for them and gave the animals food and water. The number of animals at the temple once again indicated that the trade in wildlife in Thailand is out of control.

Thailand 2002

  • The Monkey World and Pingtung teams returned to Thailand to investigate further reports from wildlife parks in and around Bangkok.
  • The team went to Safari World and found more than a dozen (12+) orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) and several chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) that were dressed up and made to perform a Thai boxing match. All these orangutans were juveniles and there were no adult orangutans found in the park.

  • If there are no adult orangutans at Safari World, where did all the young orangutans come from? Safari World staff were asked this question. The replied that there were no adult orangutans at the park. All the orangutans in the Safari World show were clearly smuggled from the wild.
  • After the boxing show the orangutans were taken to a public area where customers were allowed to have their photos taken with the orangutans. For the photos the orangutans were forced to “kiss” each person. From this type of contact with the public it is likely that the animals will catch tuberculosis from the people and then they will pass it on to other visitor that kiss them. This disease risk is very dangerous for both people and orangutans.

  • The team continued to look around the park where they found a private area where more primates were kept. In particular the team noted a concolor gibbon (Hylobates concolor ssp) in the distance.

  • The team next headed for Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo.

  • At Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm the team found at least 10 orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), 6 pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus), and 10 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). The orangutans were all young animals and there were no adults in site. Two of the orangutans were being used for photography with the public and at least 8 more were found in a storage area behind the zoo where the team could see the captive orangutans reaching out from their cages. It was difficult to see into this area (by the adult chimps and gibbons) so there may have been many more orangutans than the team could count. With no adults to be found in the zoo, the orangutans at Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm must be smuggled from the wild.
  • The conditions for the animals at the crocodile farm were terrible. Chimpanzee cages were 3cm deep in algae and slime, the gibbons had their teeth knocked out so that many of them (of different species) could be kept together without biting each other, and all the cages were “cleaned” by throwing a bucket of disinfectant over the cowering animals. This is a cruel and indecent way to treat any animals – especially endangered species.

  • Finally the team went to check on the baby orangutans that were being forced to wear clothes and pose with tourists for photos. After the photo sessions the baby orangutans are chained inside small cages. The chains were so tight on one baby that his foot could not even touch the ground.

Thailand 2003

  • Experts from Monkey World and Pingtung Rescue Centre in Taiwan went to Chatuchak Market to see what was for sale. Again they found rows and rows of cages filled with South American macaws, African grey parrots, Asian pheasants, eclectus parrots, Egyptian tortoises, snakes, sugar gliders, lion fish, clown fish, etc.

  • At one bird stall the team were offered 2 pairs of blue and gold macaws for US$1000 each. The pairs of parrots were kept in plastic boxes on shelves.
  • The team then met a shop keeper who was the owner of several stalls in Chatuchak market and a farm in Chaing Mai. This wild animal dealer had dozens of crowned pigeons (from Papua New Guinea), African grey parrots, and cockatoos for sale. Also for sale at one of his shops were two South American primates, a common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) and red-handed tamarin (Saguinus midas).
  • The shop keeper said that he told the Thai government that he could breed his parrots up to 12 times per year and that all he had to do was show an official a single egg and all the birds would be registered as legal. It is not possible for parrots to lay eggs this frequently.
  • The shop owner was very clear that illegal orangutans could be obtained for 160,000 baht (US$4000).
  • The next animal dealer the team met was a Chinese Thai man that worked out of a stall in Chatuchak market. He was prepared to sell all different species of wild animal to the team. At the time of the meeting he had in his possession a clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), sun bear (Ursus malayanus), slow loris ( Nycticebus coucang) and two orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus). All of these animals were offered to us for sale. The orangutans were for sale for 170,000 baht (US$4270) each. The dealer did suggest however, that if we were prepared to wait until after the CITES conference in Bangkok in 2004, the prices would be lower!
  • The dealer also said that he could get us more orangutans and as many golden-cheeked gibbons (Hylobates gabriellae) as we wanted.
  • Also at Chatuchak Market the team were offered slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) from a group of ladies that were in the middle of the ‘cat and dog’ section undercover. The ladies had several loris in small bags that they got out to show the investigators.
  • Next the team went on to Sriracha Tiger Zoo. At this park the team we surprised to find a “circus show” that had performing orangutans (2), chimpanzees (2), an Asiatic black bear, and a couple of tigers. The team started talking to the staff who admitted that the chimps had been smuggled from Africa, into the Philippines, and then into Thailand. They also stated categorically that the orangutans came directly from Indonesia.

  • The team was also shocked to see the physical condition of one of the chimpanzees. A chimpanzee, named Naree, had her incisors and canine teeth knocked out. Subsequently, the tissue in her mouth healed over and a severe infection had developed. Naree the chimpanzee now has huge, solid swellings across her face. The veterinarians at Sriracha showed the team some x-rays from the chimp. It is clear that if the chimp does not receive immediate specialised veterinary care, she will die.

  • Finally the team went to Safari World again. This time they went to the park and asked if they could see the orangutans being trained. The staff let the team into the training area where there were many young orangutans. A couple of orangutans were brought over for the investigators to meet while the others continued with their training.

  • At this point the assistant Curator came out and began to tell the investigators that Safari World had 41 orangutans and that there were not any adults that could be seen. He said that he was beginning training for a new show that would use many orangutans in an orchestra performance.
  • While wandering around Safari World, the team also found hundreds of macaws and up to a hundred crowned pigeons, a hundred eclectus parrots, and a hundred palm cockatoos. Clearly endangered wildlife from Papua New Guinea is entering Safari World with seemingly no restrictions.

Summary and Update

For the past 3 years Jim and I have conducted an undercover operation in Thailand trying to track smugglers of primates in South East Asia. We began our investigations in Thailand due to the fact that a gentleman by the name of Raymond Humphries was convicted of animal trafficking from Bangkok into the UK. His main business was birds of prey, and it is estimated that his business turnover was £1 million per year in illegal wildlife. He was stopped at Heathrow along with his 2 couriers who had 2 suitcases full of dead birds of prey. When his home was raided they found hundreds more birds as well as 6 slow loris (a type of Asian primate) and 1 golden-cheeked gibbon that was incredibly rare. The gibbon was apparently purchased for his wife as a present on his “business trips”. Monkey World was asked by Customs and Excise to re-home the gibbon as we had others that had also been rescued from the illegal pet trade in Asia. Monkey World gave expert testimony at Mr Humphries trial in regards to the rarity and smuggling of the gibbon. He received a 6½ year sentence which he is currently serving in a closed prison.

As Monkey World had rescued and rehabilitated a number of golden-cheeked gibbons (which originate from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) we decided that we should make an effort to track the smugglers and the trade back to its origin. In Bangkok, in the first year, we were stunned how easy it was to talk to people about purchasing orangutans and gibbons illegally from the markets. We were also surprised by the sheer numbers of rare species that were being exploited in the safari parks and zoos around Bangkok. After our investigations we compiled a brief description of our findings and prepared a dossier for the Thai Authorities. With the assistance of our MP, Jim Knight, we were able to have a meeting with the First Secretary to the Thai Ambassador in London. Following our meeting at the Embassy on 27 November 2003 raids were made by the Thai Police at two of the wildlife parks we had alerted them to. At the first, Safari World, we had suspicions that they had at least 42 illegally smuggled young orangutans. Following the raid it was announced in the local media (Bangkok Post and The Nation) that 116 illegal orangutans were found at Safari World! The second raid was at Sriracha Tiger Zoo where 100 illegal tigers as well as 2 illegal orangutans and 2 illegal chimpanzees were found.

We have a couple of very specific concerns:

  • Thailand signed CITES in 1983 and as a signatory has very specific rules and regulations as to the “disposal” of illegal wildlife. First port of call should be the country of origin where the animals can be repatriated. This is a specific requirement of the treaty that Thailand is obligated to fulfil. The 116 orangutans come from Indonesian Borneo and therefore the Thai Government should have contacted the Indonesian Authorities in order to return them to rehabilitation centres in Borneo. This has not been done and now the Thai authorities are talking about waiting to see what the Judge says in the ensuing court case. However, the court case is irrelevant to the requirements of CITES laws.
  • Secondly, at Sriracha Tiger Zoo we found one of the chimpanzees, a female named Naree, that had a severely deformed face. We talked to the veterinarian and keepers about her condition and they said that she had been taken from Africa, to the Philippines, and then onto Thailand (all illegally of course). Naree’s problem is life threatening. She has had her first incisor and canine teeth broken off. Often trainers do this to keep the animal from delivering a nasty bite. The roots of the teeth then got infected and the gums healed over the infected roots. The infection has now spread upward into her skull and it will eventually kill her. In terms of CITES, as we do not know exactly what country in West Africa Naree came from, and due to her medical condition, she cannot be returned to her country of origin. The second option for illegal wild animals according to CITES is for them to be sent to a recognised rescue centre (such as Monkey World). We have requested that the Thai authorities let Naree come to England for the life saving medical operations that she needs. So far we have been told to wait and see what the outcome of the trial is but according to CITES law it should not matter and Naree may die soon.
  • Finally, there were other zoos that we told the Thai authorities about where there were illegal wild animals. One called Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm had many orangutans and chimpanzees that we believe are illegal and are kept in terrible conditions. This park should also be raided and the illegal animals removed.
  • At the beginning of December Monkey World let its 15,000 members know of Naree’s plight and the smuggling of orangutans into Thailand. They are now writing to the Thai Embassy letting them know that Naree should be released, the orangutans repatriated, and that they will not travel to Thailand unless the Thai Authorities follow up on these matters.
  • At the end of December 2003 we received a message from the Thai Embassy letting us know that Naree is still alive, but is very unwell, and the Thai vets are at a loss to do anything for her. The Embassy was going to try and follow up by making a request to Sriracha Tiger Zoo to release Naree for lifesaving operations in Britain. We are now waiting to hear. As of January 2004 Naree was still performing three shows per day at Sriracha Tiger Zoo.
  • During January 2004, Environment Minister, Elliot Morley requested an update on the situation in Thailand following a presentation Alison and Jim Cronin gave to the House of Commons. It is expected that Mr Morley will be arranging a meeting with the Thai Ambassador to discuss both Naree’s future and the future of the illegal orangutans.

Monkey World is concerned that Naree will die soon if nothing is done and that the park owners will simply be given a fine and be allowed to keep the illegal animals. If the Thais do this they are breaking CITES laws and should be fined or thrown out alltogether. As it stands at present, Thailand is due to host the next CITES meeting in autumn 2004 in Bangkok – just down the road from the largest wild animal smuggling industry in the world! Time is of the essence now as Naree’s life is on the line and Monkey World would be prepared to collect her tomorrow!

Please help by writing to the Thai Ambassador, The Thai Embassy, 29-30 Queens Gate, London, W1X 7DX and let him know that you support Monkey World’s campaign to rescue Naree and that you will not travel to Thailand until they do something to stop the Orangutan smuggling and return the orphans to Indonesia.