Animal lovers, take note: this will likely break your heart into a million pieces. As if the thought of animals in captivity wasn’t enough to make you concerned, seeing pictures of animals trapped in what’s been called “the most miserable zoo in the world” will leave you devastated. This zoo in Thailand is home to many animals, from tigers to elephants and monkeys, all housed in tiny cages with no room to move, sometimes shackled with rusty iron chains, and reportedly abused.
The conditions are horrific, yet tourists frequent the zoo to have a look at the animals. Environmental photojournalist Aaron Gekoski visited the Thailand zoo, taking photos, and hoping to produce a half-hour documentary to show the severely depressed animals in their sickening conditions and raise awareness about the situation. He also created a fundraiser on GoFundMe to raise the money for producing the documentary, as he explained:
“I have just returned from documenting Thailand’s Wildlife Tourism industry. What I witnessed was shocking and incredibly distressing. This is a story that needs to be seen by the rest of the world.
Whilst we shot some powerful footage, I am now raising funds for a second trip, to build on the story and produce and edit a 30-minute documentary for global distribution.
Posing for a tiger selfie, riding on the back of an elephant, watching dolphin shows: over 100 million people visit Wildlife Tourism attractions every year. Yet behind the shows and performances lies a dark side to this industry.
Over half a million animals are suffering for our entertainment. Many of them have been stolen from their families in the wild to live in inhumane conditions. Their spirits are broken by handlers, who beat them into submissive states. They then live the rest of their lives in appalling conditions and are abused and mistreated on a daily basis.”
He further noted that he visited the wildlife tourist areas with a director and explained: “What we saw was truly shocking; orangutans forced to box each other in humiliating routines; elephants that appeared so drugged they could barely walk; monkeys yanked around on chains and made to ride bikes; a gorilla living in a filthy cell at the top of a shopping mall.”
He continued: “We documented these scenes, filming some compelling sequences and gathering imagery that is receiving significant interest in the press and on social media.”
Gekoski noted: “However, to do this story justice we need to produce a documentary that will offer an in depth analysis into Thailand’s Wildlife Tourism industry: the cruellest operators, the animals affected, as well as highlighting those working to combat the industry, such as Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Freeland, and Elephant Nature Park.
This means a return to Thailand with a small crew, where we will fill in the blanks and visit some of the above operators. Once our story is complete, we will edit this into a 30-minute film that will be pitched to broadcasters, entered into film festivals and distributed through our network of global media partners.”
In addition to his efforts, a petition at change.org urges people to sign and put an end to the orangutan boxing and cruel animal conditions.