Bua Noi, the “shopping mall gorilla” of Thailand, has spent the last 30 years in a cage behind glass at a small zoo above the Pata Pinklao store in Bangkok. Since her companion died ten years ago, she has been alone at Pata Zoo.
“She needs to get out of it,” Edwin Wiek of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand told news agency AFP. “She is not able to see the sun, the moon. She’s in a cement box with glass windows.”
“She needs to be among her own kind, or at least be outside and have some chance to see things, experience nature, birds flying around,” he added.
Despite a renewed campaign by activists to have her released, the family that owns Pata Zoo doesn’t want to release the gorilla. The zoo even offered a reward of 100,000 baht ($2,800) for information leading to the arrest of the person who wrote “Free Bua Noi!” on the mall’s wall.
The national wildlife conservation office is currently in the process of drafting regulations to address the issue, but, as yet, there is no timeframe for their implementation.
In 1992, Bua Noi was about three years old when she was transferred from Germany and has been at the zoo ever since. Animal welfare organizations say Bua Noi’s cage is unsuitable for the highly sociable animal who would normally live in a tightly-knit family group in the wild. They say she needs to be among her own kind or at least have some chance to experience nature.
Following international pressure to release Bua Noi, Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment offered the zoo a reported 30 million baht ($880,000), which the zoo rejected, saying the gorilla was too old to be rehomed.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has staged multiple protests over the years, stating that Bua Noi is “suffering from extreme psychological distress.” Their investigation into the zoo showed that other animals are also suffering.