The Safari World animal park in Koh Kong Province - which has a checkered track
record dealing with wild animals - has been asked to apply for retroactive
import permits for 22 orangutans allegedly smuggled in from Thailand, or risk
having the animals confiscated.
On November 10, the Cambodian office for
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES), sent a letter to Ly Yong Phat, the owner of Safari World's parent
company Koh Kong International Resort Casino, inviting him to begin the
If there is no response, a second and third letter
will be issued before the animals are confiscated by the Forestry Administration
(FA) and conservation NGO WildAid, said a Cambodian CITES officer, who asked not
In January last year the park received a letter from the
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Chan Sarun, giving a general
approval for the orangutans' import but requested the Forestry Administration
and CITES be involved in transporting and caring for the animals.
they got the approval they do themselves s they just ignore the process," said
the CITES officer about the "illegal import."
The orangutans currently
perform various tricks for mostly Thai tourists, including a boxing routine that
was recently banned in a similar park outside of Bangkok.
visited Indonesia in late November to return an unknown number of orangutans
from Bangkok Safari World after authorities found that most of the park's 150
primates had been illegally acquired from Indonesia.
Bangkok Safari World
has different owners than the Koh Kong park, said Nokkaew Weerapun, assistant
manager for Koh Kong Safari World, but conservationists believe the same animal
trainers work in both parks.
Animal rights activists have appealed to
Thai and Indonesian authorities to look into several cases of illegal
importation, including the Koh Kong Safari World.
"The Cambodian CITES
authorities have repeatedly confirmed to us that 22 orangutans were smuggled
into Cambodia from Thailand earlier this year," said a November letter from
Edwin Wiek, the Thailand representative of Borneo Orangutan Survival
Amphoun Phan, manager of Koh Kong Safari Park, refused to
speak about the orangutans, passing on a message through her personnel
supervisor Cha Veasna: "If you want some information of animals we could not
give it to you. It's up to the president."
Repeated attempts to contact
Ly Yong Phat have been unsuccessful, with staff saying he is overseas but not
knowing when he will return or how he can be contacted.
NGO inspectors have been denied access to animals and information at Safari
World in the past, and the vast influence of wealthy businessman Ly Yong Phat
has some government officials reluctant to probe too deeply into his affairs.
The park has a record of controversy, with general manager of the
casino, Ra Phin, confirming to the Post in October that the death of eight
endangered Irrawaddy dolphins had gone unreported for nearly two years.