BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): Chiang Mai locals and the chief adviser of Chart Thai Pattana Party, Kanchana Silpa-archa, appear to have completely different opinions when it comes to asking China for a new panda.
People in the North want the government to ask China to provide a replacement for Lin Hui, Chiang Mai Zoo’s last female giant panda which died on April 19 at the age of 21.
However, in a recent Facebook post, Kanchana urged the authorities to not bring another panda to Thailand, saying these rare animals are better off living in China.
“I love pandas and all animals, and want to ensure their happiness,” she said.
“We did a great job raising Lin Hui, Chuang Chuang and Lin Bing at Chiang Mai Zoo, but its panda zone is too limited.”
Kanchana, who served as an adviser to the Environment Ministry in the previous government, explained that the panda zone in the zoo is just an air-conditioned room to keep the animals comfortable during Thailand’s hot summers.
In comparison, Chinese zoos feature a natural habitat, so pandas can stroll around freely, she said.
She added that the cost of “renting” a panda from China is also too high. Instead, she said, this money could be spent on procuring food and shelter for Thai animals like elephants.
“Thailand’s wild animals may be facing a tough year ahead due to the looming drought. So we should focus on helping them first,” she said.
Pallop Saejew, president of the Tourism Council of Chiang Mai, said having a panda in the province will help promote tourism and the local economy.
“Everybody loves pandas and not all countries can have them,” he said.
“People in neighbouring countries can visit Chiang Mai to see the pandas, as it will be cheaper and easier than flying to China.”
Pallop added that pandas are also a symbol of Thailand-China bilateral ties and a sign that China trusts us to take care of their treasured animal.
While he was in Chiang Mai last week, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told the press that asking for a panda as a goodwill ambassador would be on the agenda when he visits China in October.
Thailand has so far hosted two pandas from China.
Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang arrived in Thailand on Oct 12, 2003, on loan from the Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas in Wolong.
Through artificial breeding, they gave birth to a female panda named Lin Bing on May 27, 2009.
Lin Bing was sent to China on Sept 28, 2013. Her father, Chuang Chuang, died aged 19 on Sept 16, 2019, at Chiang Mai Zoo.