Feeding the birds and beasts at government centers across the country costs about 1.7 million baht, or US$57,000, a month. The Department of National Parks has established a fund to help defray the cost and receives donations, mainly from celebrities and wealthy Thais.
Some animals are easier to take care of than others. Caretakers at the wildlife center in Chonburi Province do not bother to lock the cage of the slow loris, a nocturnal primate with big round eyes that lives up to its name.
Monkeys are more problematic, particularly the variety known as the crab-eating macaque, which during a recent visit violently shook the bars of their cages.
“The maintenance staff spends their day fixing cages,” said Thanapol Kongsapsirianand, an official at the center.
Many monkeys have escaped from the Chonburi center and regularly raid the bird enclosure to steal food. They have also corrupted the pig-tailed macaques that live in the nearby jungles and taught them the finer points of burglary.
“The jungle monkeys were friendly before the caged monkeys taught them bad behavior,” Thanapol said.