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Tea Leaves

Politics of Thai zoology

Closure of Bangkok's Dusit Zoo highlights state of Thai democracy

Mali, a 51-year-old hippo, is one of the star attractions of Bangkok's Dusit Zoo. (Photo by Duncan McCargo)

When I turned up at Bangkok's Dusit Zoo on a recent Friday, the ticket clerk let me in at the "Thai price" of 100 baht ($3), instead of the 150 baht that foreigners usually pay. Perhaps this was because I spoke to her in Thai, or maybe it was because the zoo is about to close its gates for the last time, just months after celebrating its 80th anniversary.

Located in the heart of the city, opposite the National Assembly, Dusit is the most-visited zoo in Thailand, a beloved weekend destination for the city's children that is famed for star attractions such as Mali, a 51-year-old hippo. Even Bangkok residents who have rarely visited the zoo are full of pre-emptive nostalgia for what is about to be lost.

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