Credit: Khao Kheow Open Zoo

Investigation intensified to see whether wildlife trafficking plays a role in shooting at Songkhla Zoo

PM Prayut has calmed down public members, saying they should not rush to single out any possibilities as investigations are being intensified

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has reiterated during the press briefing at Government House today that he has instructed Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa to probe into the motivation behind the fresh shooting case at Songkhla Zoo under the ministry’s supervision, particularly to see whether there are any links to wildlife trafficking.

As cited by the house’s media, he also said he personally believes the wildlife trafficking problem still prevails in the country, so he has intructed the minister to follow up the case closely and try to come up with prevention measures against it.

On Saturday, Director General of the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand (ZPOT), Suriya Saengpong, was shot dead in Songkhla Zoo during his trip to probe into the recent disappearance of two rare albino barking deer.

In the gunshot scene that terrified the public, the gunman was later identified as a senior veterinarian at the zoo, who had faced an abrupt transfer following the deer disappearance along with some few other zoo officials. He was found shooting himself shortly after the incident at his residence.

“Everything has its own explanation and answer. Please do not rush to conclude, nor rule out any possibilities yet,”said the PM, while raising doubt on proofs earlier submitted to the ministry that show one of the disappearing dear was eaten by a python, and remarking that it’s too much conicident that the snake had eaten the albino deer.

He, however, expressed his regret for the loss of the two senior officials, citing they were both the state valuable resources.

Fact-finding

As reported by the National Broacasting Services of Thailand, Mr. Varawut has ordered a fact-finding panel at the ministry to be set up to probe into the disappearance of the deers as well as speculation on wildlife trafficking links in state zoos to try to establish facts. This is in separation from a crime case investigated by the police.

For some years, some zoos in the country have been speculated in wildlife conservation circles that they may have been involved with wildlife laundering due to weak regulations that allow some loopholes for wildlife traffickers and luanderers to exploit. But facts have hardly been established in the public, except when there are raids or arrests by widlife officials.

Thailand has both state owned and privately owned zoos. The state owned zoos, eight of them in total, are under ZPOT, while hundreds more are privately owned, being supervised by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation.

Almost all of the state zoos, meanwhile, have posted on their FB pages, paying tribute to Mr. Suriya, while Songkhla Zoo have paid tribute with its FB post for both senior officials.