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Head of Thai zoos shot dead in missing wildlife scandal

BANGKOK – The head of the Thai state zoological agency was killed Saturday while he was conducting an investigation into the suspected disappearance of rare animals from a zoo in a southern province.

Police Captain Komalpan Srithep said Suriya Saengpong, the director general of the Zoological Park Organization of Thailand, was shot multiple times in the Songkhla Zoo offices.

Srithep said the suspected gunman, a senior zoo official, escaped the shooting scene and killed himself in his quarters.

The reason for the killings was not immediately clear, although Srithep said the suspected gunman was one of four senior zoo officials investigated.

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Animals missing from Songkhla Zoo became first news in Thailand last week when leaked documents showed Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa was dissatisfied with an initial investigation into the disappearance of a rare deer. albino barking from there to February.

Songkhla Zoo Director Chalermvudh Kasetsomboon reported obtaining photos indicating that the deer had been eaten by a Burmese python, but his claim was met with skepticism.

The online site Isra News, which published the leaked documents, said there were suspicions that the missing deer, along with other animals, had been sold or stolen by wildlife traffickers.

Varawut then ordered a new investigation, which Suriya traveled to Songkhla from Bangkok to initiate on Saturday.

Illegal wildlife trade generates about $ 25 billion in criminal revenue every year, according to TRAFFIC, an international conservation group that monitors such activities, it is believed to be the fourth most profitable criminal activity in the world after drug trafficking, humans and weapons.

Gun-related violence is not uncommon in Thailand, although it is unusual for a senior official to be killed following a workplace dispute.

In February, in northeastern Thailand, a Thai army soldier who believed he had been duped by his colonel commander in a real estate transaction shot the officer and then went on a rampage which resulted in the death of 31. people, including him.

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