Horrified animal welfare groups fear baby sharks kept as a bizarre attraction at the The Den nightclub were eaten – by the landlord.
The fish had been crammed into an aquarium illuminated with red lights hanging above the bar at the ‘gentlemen’s club’ on Sukhumvit Soi 12 in Bangkok.
It included five exotic black tip sharks – which can grow up to 8.5ft – that had become a hit with visitors to bar who were sometimes allowed to feed them.
But rescue workers alarmed at the poor condition of the sharks stepped in last month amid fears the creatures were becoming too big for the tank.
Shockingly, the Thai landlord allegedly said to rescuers that ”he’d rather eat them” than release the creatures.
There are now fears that the sharks have been served up in soup or as steaks after they suddenly disappeared overnight when groups tried to free them.
Paul Friese from marine group Bali Sharks said he arranged to rescue the sharks but when he arrived they had ”vanished”.
Paul, originally from Hawaii, said: ”The sharks have been kept in a poor condition and they have outgrown the tank.
”We wanted to rescue them but the owner said he’d rather eat them. The sharks then vanished the night before helpers arrived.
”We’re not really sure what to think as it is Thailand. Shark meat is highly toxic which consumers really are not aware of.”
The juvenile sharks include four males and one female ranging in size up to 1.5 metres long.
Each one is three to four years old and is believed to have lived at the club for a number of years.
The Den was once an upmarket bar with young hostess and private ‘short time’ rooms available for 1000thb (£20gbp).
Sofas with wrap around curtains were also popular.
The Bangkok sharks bar had become known for its large fish tank.
But after being made aware of the plight of the creatures, marine activist Paul had been battling to get the fish re-homed in a safe environment.
”The sharks shouldn’t have been jeopardized by the dispute”
He arranged for a pick up truck and oxygenated tank to ferry them to safe waters. But the plot failed at the last minute when the bar’s landlord backed out.
Paul added: ”The new bar owner agreed to release the sharks. ‘But a lease dispute developed and the bar owner left.
”We asked the landlord to honour the release and rescue but he replied ‘he’d rather eat them’.
”Oddly the sharks went missing the night before I arrived in BKK with out any warning.
”The sharks shouldn’t have been jeopardized by the dispute. It’s no secret that Thailand has one of the worst fisheries.”
Colleague Steven Reinhold, 61, added: ”The owner told me that he intended to get rid of them anyway but he didn’t know how until I contacted him.
”I’m concerned that the owner will not know where to release them, and if they are released just anywhere they will be caught again and back in the same situation.”
Steven said that although the sharks are not an endangered species if it keeps happening ‘there might be none left”.
”People trying to rescue them are violating the rights of the actual owners of the sharks”
Thai officials who looked into the case then defended the owner of the venue, formerly called ‘The Den’, which is currently closed while they look for a new tenant or buyer.
Saowapa Sawatpeera from the Institute of Marine Science said that no laws had been broken by keeping the sharks at the club and ”they are common and widely eaten”.
She said: “People trying to rescue them are violating the rights of the actual owners of the sharks. If a rescue was to be conducted, it has to be at the request of the bar owner, and not a third party such as the rescue centre.
”In some cases returning marine life to the open ocean will lead to an animal’s death if the rescuers do not have proper knowledge.”