Wake up to state of animal welfare in zoos

LETTER TO THE EDITOR                                                                                                 08 OCTOBER 2013 

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is extremely appalled to learn of the suffering of neglected zoo animals at the Mines Wonderland, which followed after the closure of the Mines theme park.

SAM has been continuously emphasising on a ban and to put an end to the issuing of permits to captive wildlife at theme parks and resorts. Obviously our stand has always been ignored or fallen on the deaf ears of the authorities.

The consequence of which is neglect and unwanton suffering to wildlife when a place is bogged by financial troubles or poor record attendance. SAM has always stressed as well as voiced our strong opposition against zoos or mini zoos in theme parks and resorts set up as an added attraction to draw the crowd. In actual fact, theme parks and resorts and all such captive facilities do not place the needs of their animals as their highest priority. 

SAM questions as to why the animals have been left in a neglected state for more than two years until their plight was highlighted in the press. Even more baffling is how Perhilitan’s team could not see signs of neglect towards the animals during an inspection of the ‘zoo’. They either lack experience and knowledge in captive animal condition or they knowingly leave these animals to their plight.

Sending animals that are listed under the Wildlife Conservation Act to an already over-stocked zoo such as the Taiping Zoo does not help much. The welfare of the remaining sambar deer, birds and tortoises needs to be given serious consideration on humanitarian grounds instead of leaving them in a poor and neglected state.

So long as the management of Mines Wonderland is in possession of the permits, they are responsible for the proper upkeep and maintenance of the animals, failing which action should be taken against them under both the Wildlife Conservation Act and Section 44 of the Animal Act 1953.

Zoos in Malaysia hardly place the needs of the animals as their highest priority often failing to understand that all animals need space, complexity, stimulation and an ability to exercise control over their own lives; focussing only on commercial objectives, such as perpetually trying to raise visitor numbers or generate revenue, actions that often occur at the expense of the animals. 

The crux of the problem of sub-standard zoos and poor animal welfare is because of the easy issuance of licence and permits for zoo operators without an afterthought of what will happen to zoo animals in case of financial constraints. Developers of resorts and theme parks are coming up with more zoos and safari parks as another public attraction in their proposed projects. Latest news is that another proposed zoo or safari park is to be set up in Putrajaya. 

Enough is enough! At the governmental level the Environment Ministry must end the issuing of permits and special permits for proposed new zoos and safari parks and instead concentrate in ensuring that zoos below existing standards improve or face closure.

S.M.MOHAMED IDRIS 

President

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)

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