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Chiang Mai Night Safari – Rare animals on the menu at zoo – Visitors offered daily buffet of lion, tiger, elephant and giraffe meat Section

CHIANG MAI – Lovers of “wild‚Äù cuisine are in for a treat when Chiang Mai’s Night Safari opens next year, project director Plodprasop Suraswadi said yesterday.

Visitors to the park’s Vareekunchorn restaurant will have the option of tucking in to an “Exotic Buffet‚Äù of tiger, lion, elephant and giraffe, for just Bt4,500 a head.

The park, which had a soft opening yesterday, officially opens on New Year’s Day.

The animalbuffet idea has drawn strong protests from wildlife groups, which have expressed concern that the menu of endangered and protected animals will confuse the public and foreign visitors about the real objective of the zoo, as well as Thailand’s stance on wildlife conservation.

According to Plodprasop, animals for the buffet would be imported daily and legally to the zoo.

Ironically, the prime minister said the park would aim to increase public awareness of natural science and wildlife.

“The zoo will be outstanding, with several restaurants offering visitors the chance to experience exotic foods such as imported horse, kangaroo, giraffe, snake, elephant, tiger and lion meat.

“We will also provide domestic crocodile and dog meat from Sakon Nakhon province” Plodprasop said at a press tour before Thaksin presided over the soft opening.

Plodprasop said food provided at the buffet restaurant would be fresh daily and cooked by five foreign chefs.

Wildlife Fund Thailand secretary Surapol Duangkae said yesterday that although consuming wildlife didn’t violate Cites [Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species], it could fly in the face of moral issues and worsen the country’s image on wildlifetrade issues.

“The idea will set the country’s image back a century, because nowadays zoos around the world aim to educate and conserve wildlife, as well as campaigning to stop the killing of animals” he said.

He said the action of the government would appear to the world as if Thailand approved of the endangeredwildlife trade and consumption.

There have already been cases of 100 tigers exported to China, elephants planned to be transferred to Australia and the illegal import of orangutans.

Surapol said the country has also been accused of trafficking endangered species, and being a trading centre and hunting ground for endangered species.

“The government’s action seems to confirm these accusations” Surapol said.

Petch Manopavitr, a Wildlife Conservation Society activist said this was a sensitive issue as the prime minister had previously declared that the country wanted to suppress wildlife trade in the region.

“I see it as a bad idea to market the zoo. In fact, it was wrong from the start with the idea of importing wild animals from Kenya” Petch said.

Petch was also concerned about illnesses from eating wild animals.

“The zoo should be a place for study and conservation, not killing. Promoting the eating of wild ani¬¨mals will confuse adults and children about what’s right and what’s wrong” he said.

However, the prime minister seemed unconvinced by Plodprasop’s idea as he said that only part of a crocodile’s body could be eaten and it therefore wouldn’t be worth killing.

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