Thailand market fire kills more than 1,000 animals prompting calls for crackdown

<span>Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Thailand which killed more than 1,000 animals.</span><span>Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters</span>
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Thailand which killed more than 1,000 animals.Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Animal welfare experts have called for a crackdown on the sale of wildlife in Thailand, after a fire swept through the pet zone of Bangkok’s most famous outdoor market, killing more than 1,000 animals.

Puppies, cats, fish, snakes, swans, cockatoos and rabbits kept inside cages were all reportedly killed in the blaze, which began early on Tuesday morning and burned through about 1,300 square metres of the Chatuchak Weekend Market.

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The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt.

About 118 shops were burnt down and an initial inspection suggest that the fire was caused by an electrical fault, police superintendent Phuwadon Ounpho said.

The market is one of the biggest in south-east Asia, and attracts tourists from across the world to its shops which sell anything from plants and ceramics, to food and clothes.

The market’s pet section has been accused by conservationists of selling endangered species, and of keeping animals in poor conditions. Vendors have in the past denied breaking any laws.

Lek Chailert, Founder of Save Elephant Foundation, said Tuesday’s fire underscored the need to improve animal welfare and regulate breeding. “We need to ask how these animals ended up in such dire conditions,” she said in a statement.

“I call on the government to respond transparently and implement measures to regulate the breeding and sale of wild animals in markets. There must be clear laws governing international animal trade and protecting animal welfare in Thailand,” she said

Edwin Wick, founder and director of the Friends of Wildlife Foundation, said the market was “a shame on the city of Bangkok”.

“It has been allowed to continue selling animals unethically and often illegally for far too long. We are urging the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to act now and stop this place from selling animals, particularly wild animals,” said Wick.