Sunday, August 24, 2008

Plan to start monkey business

Plan to start monkey business

South African investors want to stock Phuket islands with primates

By Achadtaya Chuenniran

South African investors plan to populate two deserted islands with monkeys as a tourist attraction in the resort province of Phuket.

Tony Blignaut, chief executive officer of Monkeyland South Africa Co, recently led a team to meet Phuket governor Niran Kalayanamitr to discuss their proposed monkey island project.

Under the plan two islands, Koh Thanan in tambon Wichit municipality and Koh Elle in tambon Rawai in Muang district, have been chosen as sites for the project, pending negotiations with local administrative agencies.

Koh Thanan would be developed as the main tourist island, housing local and foreign species of monkeys, while Koh Elle would be used as a reseach centre for the animals or serve as a nursery for monkeys, said a source in Phuket.

The firm wants to develop Koh Thanan as a new tourism destination in Phuket. The island is only 10 minutes by boat from nearby Chalong bay.

The firm has so far spent a large amount of money conducting a feasibility study of the project.

The source said monkeys would be imported from several countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa, to stock the islands. It is estimated that about 100 monkeys would be brought from outside Phuket.

The firm could rent the islands from the government or enter into a joint investment with local authorities. Both islands are public land.

Under the plan, a pier would be built on one of the islands. There would be about 40 shops, all operated rent-free by local residents, said the source. Food and water for the monkeys would be provided by the project developer.

Mr Niran welcomed the proposed project, but said investors would have to consult with the local administrative agencies which supervised the islands.

Kreetha sae Tan, chairman of the tambon Wichit municipality, said the municipality had to first look at the project's feasibility study and consider its ecological impact on the area.

So far, there have been no talks between the municipality and the project developer, he said.

Arun Solos, chairman of the tambon Rawai municipality, said the municipality would listen to residents' concerns about the project before making a decision.

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