Owner of the world's loneliest gorilla says he will allow her a brief taste of freedom if he is paid £700,000

The world's loneliest gorilla housed in a supermarket cage will only be given a brief taste of freedom before she dies if her owner is paid £700,000, he has said.

Thailand's environment minister had said he wanted 33-year-old Bua Noi moved from the vile 'zoo' to a sanctuary where she could 'experience her homeland and be with other gorillas'.

But now the gorilla's owner says he will only agree if he is paid 30 million Thai Baht.

Thanetpol Thanaboonyawat, the minister's secretary, said: 'We have held activities in the past campaigning for Bua Noi's release and to raise funds.

'We collected donations from Bua Noi's supporters. But the problem is that the owner refuses to sell Bua Noi.

'When he does agree to sell her, the price is too high.

'Bua Noi is considered private property so we cannot do anything to remove her.

'The owner bought Bua Noi before laws were introduced to prevent the trade and ownership of endangered animals and wild animals.'

Named 'one of the saddest places in the world' by PETA, in 2020 singer Cher attempted to have Bua Noi released after expressing her 'deep concern' over the gorilla's fate.

Arriving in the grotty cage housed on the seventh floor of a shopping centre when she was just one-year-old, Bua Noi has been trapped behind its rusty metal bars ever since.

In 2015 her plight came to public attention when animal rights groups handed in a petition calling for her release and for the zoo to be closed down.

Petition organiser Sinjira Apaitan said at the time: 'I don't think animals should be locked up in such unnatural habitats.

'I hope to help all other animals being held captive in this high-rise zoo as well.'

But after being forced to close because of incorrect paperwork, the zoo later reopened and Bua Noi remained caged in her filthy surroundings.

PETA Senior Vice President Jason Baker said that Bua Noi was being forced to live in 'horrifying and cruel conditions' and suffering 'extreme psychological distress'.

He added: 'This shabby facility is internationally condemned as one of the worst zoos in the world.

'I urge everyone to keep the pressure on Pata Zoo and to demand that it let PETA help retire these animals to reputable sanctuaries that would meet their physical and mental needs.'

A spokesman for the zoo said: 'The current team of Pata Pinklao department store executives has been in charge of the management since August 28, 2020.

'Up to now, the executives have never entered any negotiations to sell Bua Noi with anyone or any agencies.

'The ageing gorilla has spent her life at the zoo and has been accustomed to this environment and a disease-free place for more than 30 years.'

Earlier, zoo director Kanit Sermsirimongkol said that Bua Noi's sad look was her 'natural facial expression'.