Four people including an American woman, an Australian national, and two Thai men were arrested in Chalong after they broke into Phuket Zoo, took photos and videos of the animals, and set up donation pages to collect money for feeding the animals.
The incident occurred on April 14th when a security guard reported seeing all four suspects scale the wall and enter the closed Phuket Zoo, taking photos and videos of the animals inside.
The four suspects – Minh Nguyen, Joy Marian Somers, Hussein Ahmed, and Hassan Kohkhar – then posted the videos online on various social media channels.
Videos first appeared on the Facebook Page of American, Joy Somers, claiming the animals were unfed and abandoned and requesting public donations to help purchase food.
Later, videos were also uploaded to the Instagram page of Australian, Minh Nguyen, with similar allegations of animal neglect and requests for public donations.
Further media was uploaded to Minh Nguyen’s YouTube channel showing videos of the animals in the zoo along with media of money being spent on buying food for the animals.
The foursome had set up a separate bank account under the name of Thai national, Hassan Kohkhar, to receive donations from the public.
Additional efforts to receive public donations were set up in the form of a GoFundMe page that has received a total of $45,576 (almost 1.5 million baht) in donations so far.
The owner of Phuket Zoo, Suriya Tanthaweewong, filed a complaint with Chalong Police after learning about the alleged fundraising efforts, claiming the zoo was not seeking public donations and the animals were being adequately cared for and fed.
The claim was backed by wildlife officials who visited the zoo last week and said there was evidence of “enough food to feed the animals and ensure their welfare.”
The zoo owner also said that if the public wishes to donate directly to the zoo they can get further details by calling the zoo office on 061 825 9225.
Police have pressed charges against the foursome, including entering false information on a computer system and trespassing. They have also seized the bank account that was set up for donations.
The lawyer for the accused has claimed the whole situation is a misunderstanding and his clients had gained permission to enter the zoo from the owner’s mother.
Source: The Phuket News