Safari World - Bangkok
Safari World is located on Ramintra road, Min Buri in the northern part of Bangkok, Thailand. The collection is open every day of the year from 09.00 to 17.00.
It is not the easiest or cheapest place to reach as an individual. You could use a taxi or catch a bus from the Victory Monument (ask around). Probably the most convenient option is to get your hotel or book you onto a tour.
Safari World Bangkok first opened in 1988 and has continued to 'improve' in the years since then. The operation is divided into a typical Zoo area, a Marine World and a Safari Park. The area covered is approximately 200 acres. This is a public limited company, listed on the Thai Stock Exchange, with profit and its shareholders being its primary considerations.
The gardens, the paths, the catering, the shading and general dressing up of the place is mainly tasteful and nice. The toilets are exceptionally good and I noted at least one (which I did not enter) was award winning. Many Zoos have exceptional toilets.
This collection is one which the majority of zoo visitors find wonderful. Those who 'know' and can 'read between the lines' can see that not all is as it seems.
There is a place for entertainment within a zoo setting so the likes of the Spy War Show and the Cowboy Stunt Show I really have no problems with. This is not so when the 'show' involves living animals. This place is not a circus, it is a zoo. As a zoo the animal related activities should be centred around Edutainment. The public need to be educated. As an organisation which uses animals to earn money they MUST give back. They owe it.
Here they offer a Dolphin and Beluga Show, a Sea Lion Show, Elephant Show, Bird Show, Orangutan Boxing, Polar Bear and Walrus feeding and more. Time constraints did not allow me to see all of these but I did watch the Dolphin/Beluga Show and the Orangutan Boxing. Whereas both of these were very clever they were pure exploitation and I failed to catch even a hint of education in the performances. There really is no excuse for not doing so with the Cetaceans because the spiel is already there and being used in professional dolphin shows the world over.
The Orangutan Boxing is a different thing altogether. It was clever. The audience and my companions loved it. I know nothing of the training methods used. The animals appear to have been enjoying themselves... but that is part of the show after all. Using these special little animals in performances such as these is a mockery of the species. A species which may well be our closest relative and likely to become extinct in the wild by 2021. I would question where the animals came from. There were around ten used in the show. All between three and five years old. They really should have been with their parents. Parent rearing is essential. Pulling for commercial exploitation is criminal. Perhaps they were orphans. If so, why use them for this?
The 'Safari' part of the collection is, apparently, a drive of some 8 Km (it did seem shorter to me). You can drive through in your own vehicle or on scheduled buses. It is the typical Safari Park format of themed areas.
The area holding the hoofstock was vastly overstocked and was very muddy. I will grant you that it had just rained and so that made the appearance worse but there was not a single solitary blade of grass in the enclosure. Far too many animals for the area. Parasite control as well as animal ID and checking must be a nightmare.
Entrance to Safari World, Bangkok, Thailand
Safari World had some very bad press back in 2004 when it was found that they were holding well over 100 Orangutans, which, they claimed were the progeny resulting from their very successful breeding programme. It would have been exceptionally successful if true because they were holding 101 youngsters aged between 1 and 4 years of age and only seven breeding age males and seven breeding age females. So this was nonsense of course and following worldwide protests steps were taken to start DNA testing. In the interim 41 Orangutans disappeared, having died, apparently, from pneumonia. The bodies were not available for testing. 69 animals were eventually confiscated and the majority of these returned to rescue facilities in Indonesia. The Directors of Safari World eventually admitted that they were in the wrong and they were involved in what was a crime. One would think that this would be enough for the authorities to warch them much closer in the future. This is not the case however as they are now being given elephants 'rescued' from the streets of Bangkok.
I strongly suspect that at least some of the 'dead' Orangutans could be found today boxing in Koh Kong Safari World in Cambodia. The similarities between the two collections are too strong not to ignore this possibility.
Dolphin and Beluga Show
You Should Question the Ethics
If you can watch an Orangutan Boxing display without questioning then it is time to go back to school. Yes it is clever...they are clever. It is amusing...they are amusing. Is it right though? Is it doing harm? Long term/ Short term? It is a question of ethics.
Sadly the video below was removed by Youtube and there does not seem to be any way to get it restored. It did not show animal cruelty in any way though I don't doubt an element went into the training the animals for the show. The video was important in letting viewers to make up their own minds. I believe the show should be stopped.
i have replaced the original video with a clip shot by someone else. Sadly a lot shorter and misses the points I was trying to make.
Orangutan Boxing Show in Safari World Bangkok
I have never seen so many Macaws in one place in all my life. There were over a hundred to greet people entering the park. Elsewhere in the collection there were other places where they were being held. Having seen Eggs World I don't doubt that all were probably bred within the collection. The question does arise in my mind though. Why? Why so many? They are all feather cut (though some may be pinioned) and stuck, overcrowded really. on perches. No signage. Nothing to say what they are, where they come from. So many birds simply being used as a living backdrop to tourists photos. Avian window dressing.
A Photo conjures memories
The photograph (in the 'guidebook') of the waterfowl on the page opposite the 'Fancy Carp Garden' gave me a bit of a jolt and conjured up some memories. This photograph showed ducks...mainly Carolina and Mandarin and mainly male.
Back in the early 1970s I was the curator of Cleethorpes Zoo & Marineland in Lincolnshire, England. Whilst I was there there was a change and shake up in the upper echelons of the zoo group I was working for. I watched as in dribs and drabs the elephants, giraffe, rhino and others were shipped off to other zoos. Then there was talk of selling off the finest breeding group or Red Kangaroos in the country and replacing them with Wallabies. "The public don't know the difference" I was told. The breeding Humboldt Penguins could go too they said. We will replace them with ducks. Carolina and Mandarin. No females. We want colour they said! I resigned a week later.
And it was the colour, or rather lack of it, in one of the lakes in Safari World which attracted my attention. Black Swans and White Swans. Dozens of them! No other species just black and white swans. This is not a zoo exhibit...it is art. No thought at all to the sensibilities or needs of the animals but simply 'animal candy for the eye'. I would imagine that all these birds were the same sex too otherwise it will be hell during the breeding season as they fight over and for territories. Okay...I understand the thinking behind such an exhibit but that does not make it right. It is very wrong. Very very wrong.
The Aviaries are well constructed and designed. Visitors cannot get around the back, they offer height, shelter from the elements, along with the opportunity to get out into sun or rain. Where they let themselves down is the cage furniture. Far too regimented and lacking in imagination. Someone somewhere has at some point declared that the aviaries should contain a perch and a tree stump. So that is what they contain...every one of them. Boring for the birds, boring for the visitors and certainly not offering any mental stimulation to either.
It is in the aviaries too that one sees that there is more concern over colour than conservation. Lutino Ringnecks, dozens of them. I question whether they have a place in any zoo. Equally so the Blue mutations. It is yet another of these zoo pointless quirks.
One of a run of aviaries
One of the better signs
One of the prime reasons for zoos is education and one of the easiest and best ways to educate is signage. Signage is extremely rare here. That which there is poor and boring (though there are exceptions).
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I noted there was something resembling a greenhouse situated in the tiger enclosure. As I moved round I found there was a tunnel leading out to this. Good idea I thought, get up close and personal. I have seen the same idea, though on a smaller scale used with several other species. People love that sort of thing. I would encourage it.
I stooped low and went through the tunnel and into the greenhouse. Very thick glass protected by a robust metal frame. Safe as houses? Safe as greenhouses! Someone had cut two big sections out of the glass. These were big enough and positioned well in reach so that I could have placed my arm into the tiger enclosure up to my shoulder if I had been stupid enough. I am not, but many zoo visitors are. Why were they there? Something much smaller could have solved any condensation problems. Perhaps cut out for camera action? Whatever the reason it is a serious accident just waiting to happen.
On my previous visit to this collection there were opportunities to have your photopgraph taken with baby tigers and Orangutans. Not this visit though...or perhaps the rain had given them all the day off.
The 'Greenhouse' in the Tiger Enclosure
Egg World is without doubt the finest exhibit in Safari World. It claims to be the 'World's one and only' and it may well be. It is not just good, it is fantastic and it is worth visiting Safari World to see just this and nothing else.
It is rare that I enthuse over an exhibit but this one is so very good that it nears perfection. I have had to rack my brain to be critical. The only thing I would like to have seen included would have been reference to other egg laying animals, like the Platypus, Shark, Moths and so on.
Egg World is an interesting educational adventure. It is a living exhibit of incubation and chick rearing. Many different forms of media are incorporated into the 'experience'. There is no 'show' here. No tricks, no exploitation. It is so good it is fantastic in its own right. This is as zoo exhibits should be.
So...it proves that if someone can do it in Safari World that it can be done elsewhere around the collection. It really needs to be done. Safari World needs to drag itself out of the 19th and 20th Centuries and into the 21st. Safari World needs to demonstrate an understanding of Conservation, of Education, of Cooperation, of Enrichment, of Zoo Biology and more. They can do it. I know they can. Egg World proves it.
Eggs World Entrance
Pygmy Hippo Pool
Part of the Fur Seal Enclosure
Some of the less attractive Crocodile Enclosures
One of the better Crocodile enclosures
I have always believed that you can make a pretty good judgement of a Zoo if they incorporate depictions of Penguins within their Polar Bear exhibit or Vice Versa. Sadly this is the case with Safari World. It furthers the misconception and ignorance of Joe Public. It is almost anti-education.
The Polar Bears here were, while I watched, only showing minor stereotypies. I believe the feeding displays must help to reduce this.
The public viewing was on two levels (the upper was closed) and an inside air conditioned hall. The hall actually had some education posters along the back. One of the few places in Safari World where there was anything of this nature.
The day of my visit was not particularily hot for Thailand but I did wonder how the bears coped on a hot day. Perhaps they had access to air conditioning in their dens, cooled water, misting and more. If there was one or any of these then there should have been signage to say so.
When I think of all the hassle that Singapore Zoo was getting I could not help but think 'it is only a matter of time'.
Part of the Polar Bear enclosure
Inside of Polar Bear viewing area
Neat and Clean Toilets
Award Winning Loo
A Small Corner of the Large Giraffe Terrace
When I was collections manager of the South Lakes Wild Animal Park I was interested to note how thrilled and impressed people were to feed Giraffes at head level. At the time this was exclusively a keeper and special guest activity. Now it is part of the daily visitor activity in the park.
Whether the idea started there or elsewhere I do not know but it has become increasingly common as a visitor activity in zoos worldwide.
Here in Safari world they have got it down to a fine art. They also have a lot of Giraffes. I did ask how many and was told "Fifty!"...but then I counted 60 before I gave up. Visitors can purchase a small bucket of small bananas to feed the giraffes. I believe this is an extremely worthwhile activity. Getting up this close on the well designed terrace gives visitors a much greater appreciation of the wonderment of these animals. Whereas nothing can replace the real thing the opportunity to teach, to educate is lost. It is simply feeding the Giraffes.
A graphics board showing how the animals could be identified would be fantastic. Then give them names. Visitors love that sort of thing:
"Oh look that one is called Poppy"
"And over there is Hercules"
It would work and work well. Held together with factoids the Giraffe feeding could have been so very much better.
Lovely location. Vista behind. Excellent facilities.
"What kind of Giraffes?"
"What do they eat? How long do they live?....."
An opportunity lost.
No Shortage of Nesting Material
Birds in the Drive Thru
Perhaps the best part of the Safari Drive was the Bird Life. I don't think I have ever seen so many Marabou Stork, Pelicans and Painted Storks in one place in my life. They made it.
The drive passes through multi species enclosures as well as those for Tigers, Lions and Himalayan Bears. All the animals I saw looked healthy and unstressed. Here the animals really do have more space to get away unlike Bali Safari Park or that up in Chiang Mai.
Only the Deer, Blackbuck, Impala enclosure was overstocked.
A Final Note
I suppose the Safari World is a bit like the Curates egg. Eggs World definitely was the good part.
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on June 30, 2009:
Thanks Ralf. Actually the place has changed since my last visit about four years ago. Worth a visit though.
Ralf on June 30, 2009:
This seems to be an amazing and exciting place to go.
Yes, the Thais really learned a lot about animal husbandry during the last 10 years - keeping walruses under tropical conditions is probably not an easy task. Egg World looks fantastic.
The savannah is certainly overcrowded but looks not bad. The crocs are looking good, too - the large saltie might be the animal kept at Dusit Zoo (?)
Cant wait to be back in Thailand and visit the place. Thanks for posting!