When a joint team of Royal Thai Police (RTP) and officers from Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s (DNPs) ‘Wild Hawk’ task force raided a central Bangkok restaurant last week they found that what they had heard was true. Exotic and protected Thailand wildlife was indeed being served to diners in Thailand’s capital.
Authorities who entered the Luang Toto restaurant in Wang Thonglang district, Bangkok, found an array of living and dead protected Thailand wildlife on the premises.
A banquet table lay prepared with two plates containing dissected portions of a dead cobra alongside a portable induction cooktop. Nearby, the hearts of the two dead snakes sat in two shot glasses.
An inspection of the restaurant unearthed nine bottles of snake wine, a butchered pangolin, 90 grams (3.17 ounce) of pangolin scales, 21 soft-shelled Thai turtles, a yellow-headed temple turtle, four ngu sing (rat snakes), and one cobra.
Authorities arrested 66-year-old Chamu Sae-Yi, who said he was the restaurant’s manager, and detained six Burmese staff whose immigration status was unclear at the time.
According Police Colonel Nitithorn Jintakanon, Mr Sae-Yi told them that the restaurant had been open for about eight years and predominantly catered for Chinese tourists. A small dish of cobra meat cost about Bt1,000 (about US$30), while pangolin meat cost upwards of Bt10,000 (US$300) per portion.
According to authorities the ngu sing (rat snake), pangolin, and turtles are all protected Thailand wildlife, while Thai law prohibits keeping a cobra caged.
The protected Thailand wildlife which managed to escape the stomachs of Chinese tourists will be provided with veterinary treatment by the DNP before being released back in the wild, while Mr Sae-Yi is looking at the opposite. Under Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act the restaurant manager faces up to four years in jail and/or a fine of up to Bt40,000 ($1,205).
Meanwhile, as is so often the case in Thailand, the hunt continues for the restaurant owner, in addition to the supplier of the protected Thailand wildlife.
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