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In a recent investigation conducted by animal protection nonprofit Lady Freethinker (LFT) in collaboration with acclaimed photojournalist Aaron Gekoski, distressing revelations have emerged about the appalling conditions faced by orangutans in Thai zoos. The findings expose a grim reality, with the primates residing in small, unsuitable enclosures, enduring physical abuse, and being subjected to degrading performances for human entertainment.
The investigation, carried out at five different zoos in Thailand in September 2023, uncovered a disturbing panorama of neglect and cruelty. The images captured during the visit depict orangutans living in filthy, barren enclosures surrounded by trash, lying listlessly on the cold floors of their concrete pens, and being fed inappropriate items such as bags of potato chips.
Perhaps even more shockingly, the investigation revealed instances of orangutans being forced to participate in degrading shows, including “orangutan boxing” matches. The animals were seen clinging desperately to the metal bars of their enclosures, a stark testament to their distress. One handler was observed mistreating an orangutan named Tanja, using rough handling techniques such as tugging on her arms, pulling her into position, and chaining her.
Even more concerning was the revelation that orangutans were coerced into posing for “selfies,” which involved inappropriate contact with tourists, including groping of breasts and groins. Lady Freethinker strongly condemns these practices, emphasizing the inherent cruelty and disregard for the well-being of these intelligent animals.
Nina Jackel, the founder and president of Lady Freethinker, expressed deep concern about the situation, stating, “Orangutans deserve better than to be forced to perform and pose for the amusement of humans.” She is calling on Thai officials to take decisive action by banning forced selfies with orangutans and putting an end to all wild animal performances immediately.
A primate expert, Nedim C Buyukmihci, V.M.D., co-founder, and veterinary advisor of Action for Primates, reviewed the footage obtained by LFT. He commented on the evident physical and psychological suffering experienced by the orangutans in Thailand, calling it a “sad indictment of the inhumanity of people towards these critically endangered great apes.”
Find out more about Lady Freethinker here.
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