“I really don’t want to pull the plug and leave them to die”; Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium fighting for survival amid coronavirus outbreak

Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium, a 600 million baht establishment and home to over 30,000 sea and aquatic animals, is now fighting to stay afloat amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Naruthat Jaroensettasin, chairman of the aquarium, said that if the zoo is unable to receive any help or backing from the government, the aquarium may likely be forced to close — permanently.

Speaking to reporters on MCOT and Chiang Mai News, Naruthat explains that since the cost of maintaining the aquarium is so high (around 3 million baht a month), without additional support, they will only be able to drag the business on for another month. 

“We want to help Thailand and the government as much as we can in containing the virus,” said Naruthat. “But the cost of maintaining the aquarium and all the animals is so high. We really only have two options here — to close the zoo, or to receive backing from the government.”

If unable to receive the latter, the zoo will have to make the difficult and undesirable choice — of closing the aquarium, Naruthat said. The other major concern is that they don’t know what the future will hold for the 30,000 animals. 

“I would like to beg any government organizations and agencies out there that can support us, to come and help,” Naruthat pleaded, with tears in his eyes. “I am going to be honest. I really don’t want to pull the plug and leave them [the animals] to die.” 

He says any movement from the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand and coronavirus update will ultimately determine their decision.

But time is running low, and the aquarium may only have until the end of March to make that decision.

Naruthat added that despite all the problems in Thailand over the past 12 years, since they began operations, the aquarium had always managed and was never without visitors. It is only now with the coronavirus outbreak that everything is really coming apart.

The Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium is home to over 30,0000 sea and water creatures — from blacktip reef sharks (its main attraction), giant groupers, manta rays, sea turtles, to numerous rare species of fish. Like many other service and hospitality establishments out there, it is being hit hard by the outbreak. 

Now, 30,000 lives are on the line if the government doesn’t step in.

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