A television debate on a controversial plan to ship wildlife from Kenya to a safari park in northern Thailand ended in blows when proponents attacked animal welfare activists, officials said Friday. A proposal to import 175 animals from the East African nation to the Chiang Mai Night Safari Zoo has drawn the ire of conservationists in both Kenya and Thailand and was suspended last week by a Kenyan court order.
As soon as the broadcast of the heated debate ended Thursday night, two men accompanying the zoo's director rushed at two activists and punched them in the face, said Nikom Putra, one of the conservationists. The fracas lasted several minutes before studio workers were able to get the situation under control. Nikom said he planned to lodge a complaint with police.
Studio workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprimand from their superiors, said the zoo head, Prodprasob Surasawadee, may have provoked the attack, rising from his chair, pointing at the faces of the two conservationists and asking: "What do you want?"
Earlier, Kenya said it would give the animals to Thailand as a gift to strengthen relations, but conservationists voiced concern about how the animals will be affected by their relocation. Local and international conservationists have also accused the Kenyan government of shipping the animals abroad for money, something it has denied. The animals were to have included African buffalo, various species of antelope, zebra and giraffe, reports the AP. N.U.