According to The Straits Times, Asia may have seen its share of pet cafes, but none quite with the menagerie offered in Thailand. Aided by relaxed laws and a thriving wildlife market, at least four exotic pet cafes have sprung up recently around the capital.
Animal activists, however, fear this trend will feed demand for smuggling and breeding of exotic wildlife purely for entertainment.
The Animal Cafe, tucked in a quiet neighborhood in Yannawa district, boasts a white-faced owl as well as African wildcats including caracals and a serval.
Wildlife activist Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation, is critical of the trend, saying the artificial environments of these mini petting zoos could stress the animals.
According to a 2013 report on the illegal wildlife trade by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Thailand is “mainly a consumer and trans-shipper of pets and high- value luxury items,” with the rising sales of illegal wildlife on the Internet posing a challenge to law enforcement. Raids and Customs seizures in the past have turned up everything from pangolins to otters.
While the pet cafes typically do not use endangered animals, activists warn that Thai law provides little protection for non-native species. Also, some wild-caught animals have been known to be passed off as captive-bred.