Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Sultan of Selangor's Royal Vision Applauded

Work in Progress: Klang Royal Gardens
(Photo reproduced without permission from The Star, but in accordance with the principles of fair use)


The Regent of Selangor's vision and wisdom in directing the appointed landscape consultant of the Klang Royal Garden to omit expensive structures, retain existing trees, and plant fruiting and flowering trees (Metro, 27th May) has earned His Royal Highness our deepest respect and admiration.

HRH's official edict against the wastage of public funds is highly welcome, especially in the state of Selangor, where colossally expensive yet utterly inessential 'projects', such as Subang Jaya’s 3C Complex and Millennium Park, invariably end up being the bugbear of the taxpayers.

Of greater interest to nature-lovers is our Sultan's directive to plant flowering and fruiting plants, mostly indigenous, to attract local fauna. Not only will an urban park such as the Klang Royal Garden act as a natural air filtration and temperature control system, it could also be an ersatz wildlife habitat. Such a park will provide the local community with aesthetic pleasure as well as opportunities for contact with the natural environment.

Urban parks need more shade trees, and not man-made structures, to provide the local community and park visitors with respite from the heat, pollution and traffic of the city.

Unfortunately, the management bodies of many public spaces do not share the Sultan's farsightedness. At the Dengkil Rest Area along the Elite Highway, for instance, the trees are so closely cropped into topiary shapes that they afford no shade for vehicles and tired highway users, and no perching space for birds and insects.

In discussions with local authorities, nature-based non-profit organisations have always recommended the planting of indigenous fruiting and flowering trees. The typical official response is that such trees are 'messy'. However, if the labour force contracted to prune the trees into topiary shapes could be redirected instead to sweep up and compost the plant waste from the trees, there is no good economic or practical reason why native trees could not replace topiary or artificial plants in our cities and along our highways.

Our city and local councils would be well-advised to take a leaf from the Sultan of Selangor's book and provide more space for, and bring greater positive attention to, our native flora and fauna.


Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Legislation Must Address Treatment of Captive Wildlife


The current review of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 is a timely and necessary one, as it is bedeviled by loopholes and inadequacies.

One of the deficiencies of the 1972 Act is that it is incapable of preventing or correcting animal abuse or neglect.

Section 94 of the Act states that; "Save as otherwise provided in section 56, every person who wounds or provokes any wild animal with the object of availing himself of the exception conferred by section 56, is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable (in addition to any other penalty provided for any other offence) to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both."

Section 56 relates to the killing of wildlife in self-defence, if there is an "immediate danger to human life".

No section of the Act is devoted to preventing cruelty to and neglect of wildlife in captivity, for instance, in zoos and amusement parks. Thus there are no legislative means of protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of wildlife as long as they are not actively being killed or injured and visibly 'provoked'. Many commercial establishments may therefore keep wildlife in deplorable conditions with impunity.

A case in point is the A Famosa Resort in Melaka. Visitors were offered photo opportunities with a tiger, which was chained to the stage by its ankles with negligible room for movement.

Although some visitors were appalled by the manner in which the majestic tiger was displayed, under the law there was nothing they could do as long as the resort management had the requisite permits to keep and display wild animals, which were more often than not granted by PERHILITAN on 'educational' grounds.

The Act does not regulate the way in which captive wildlife may be displayed or treated, and although PERHILITAN admits that there were guidelines on how wildlife display facilities may be operated, the said document had not been given statutory footing. There is therefore no action one can take against establishments which confine wildlife in small and unsuitable enclosures, subject wildlife to stressful training or photo opportunity sessions and stop wildlife from engaging in their natural behaviour.

The penalty under section 94 is derisory when one considers that the offence is of wounding or provoking wildlife. Thus under our outdated law, an offender may get away with a mere fine for grievously injuring an animal, while a profiteer who confines, chains and otherwise fails to provide a healthy and stimulating environment for our national symbol, the tiger, will not even be charged with an offence.

There is little merit in issuing permits to private commercial establishments to display wildlife. Wildlife photo opportunities do not teach visitors anything about the natural history of the particular animal and fail miserably in cultivating love and concern for animals.

Visitors who do have their photos taken are motivated by curiosity or a perverse need to 'prove' human dominance. The more enlightened tourists leave the establishment only to render less-than-favourable reviews of the zoos and parks in question on tourism and animal welfare host sites.

Legislators must take immediate steps to safeguard our fast-vanishing natural heritage, while PERHILITAN and other bodies entrusted with the regulation of the wildlife trade must be more circumspect in the issuing of permits and be more vigilant in the monitoring of wildlife displays.


Monday, 26 May 2008

Postcard: Glad You Weren't Here!

24th – 25th May 2008: Postcard – Glad You Weren’t Here!

It would have been a good weekend for me if I didn’t have to attend the office annual bowling tournament. I would have gone to the SPCA, bade goodbye to Felicity, collected the cage and had another stray cat neutered. I would have put in 5 – 6 hours of volunteer work before going back to the parental home.

Unfortunately, in the interests of fostering camaraderie and goodwill, we all had to drive down to the A Famosa Resort in Melaka for the infernal bowling game. There is nothing amicable or peaceable about these games. Such events are almost invariably fraught with vicious backstabbing, quarrelling and allegations of cheating or rough play.

It was with reluctance that I made the journey to A Famosa Resort. Like most other amusement parks and holiday resorts in Malaysia, it has seen better days. The golf course was overgrown with weeds and the timeshare apartments were mostly vacant. There was a desolate shabbiness about the place.

The Cowboy Town in which the bowling alley was located was just as bad. Migrant workers in Western getup greeted us with a kind of desperation. Will you buy a souvenir? Have a cold beer? Shoot a few bottles off a wall for a made-in-China stuffed animal?

The workers were only just opening up the bowling alley for us. The air conditioning wasn't working but the 'fridge stocked with overpriced sodas was running beautifully. The rugrats (my workmates' children), succumbing to the resort management's devious machinations, began to scream blue murder for soda.

The game began hours after it was supposed to have commenced. I fared badly as my heart wasn't in the game. I played much better with the 4x4 team and the Parents, but playing in a pointless tournament just doesn't float my boat. (If it were a Sudoku or Scrabble showdown or a public speaking competition, however, I would be singing a very different tune).

Despite all appearances, I am not usually a competitive person. Nature thrives on cooperation and collaboration, not competition. Success isn't about defeating the next person, it's about achieving your objectives and doing it well. So a bowling tournament has little context for me. I don't know whose pride or honour or survival I am bowling for. How could a bowling victory help me improve myself as a person, or help society at large or the animal world or the natural environment?

It must have been a while since the alley was last used, because a fluorescent light fitting fell off in the middle of my team's lane and the computer system in 4 out of 10 lanes were faulty. The air conditioning was still out and everyone began to smell positively vile.

Even the Boss had to throw in the towel after his team had completed the first set and admit that the place was a dump. We'd have to play all over again in one of the better sports facilities in the city. Oh joy. Yet another weekend squandered against my will on "office sports".

There was a miniscule shopping arcade in the Cowboy Town offering substandard made-in-China goods. Worse, there was a tiger chained to a stage for photo opportunities. His paws were shackled to the floor and he looked either sedated or unwell. When we made eye contact, his sense of despair was palpable. How could people be so cowardly and so cruel as to display our national symbol, the Malayan Tiger, this way?

Visitors had to pay to have a photo taken with the poor tiger, and I chose to forgo getting photographic evidence of this instance of animal cruelty so that I wouldn't be aiding and abetting wildlife abuse and enriching the management.

(As at Tuesday, 27th May 2008, I had sent out Letters to the Editor to the major newspapers, had notified the Tiger Crime Hotline and had e-mailed the Wildlife Department upon Loretta's advice. Thanks, Loret.)

Was in no mood for dinner and went back to KL immediately after the game, drenched in sweat though I was.

Reached the Bachelor Officers' Quarters, fed and cleaned up after the cats, cleaned the 'Quarters and crashed into bed. It's been a terrible waste of a Saturday.

Went back to the parental home on Sunday morning. My cousin, Boy Scout, had come to stay for the weekend. Had lunch with the family, gave Amber a bath, took Amber and Cody on walks, cleaned the parental home, read the papers, sent Boy Scout off to get his bus back to college and went back to the 'Quarters in the evening.

I still think it is a waste of a weekend.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Vesak Day Weekend

Woke up on Sunday to find that Cody had messed up his cage in the night, but was otherwise alright and did not whimper the night away. Gave Amber a bath. Cleaned the parental home and polished the furniture. Went to the Buddhist Maha Vihara with the parents in the afternoon for Vesak Day Eve prayers. Took Amber out on a car drive in the evening. Had dinner with the parents, cleaned the kitchen and spent the rest of the night reading.

Monday was a public holiday on account of Vesak Day. The parents had a friend’s 60th birthday party to attend, so I had the house to myself for a few hours. Washed the rugs, cleaned the blinds, mopped the floor, tidied the house and played with the dogs. Took Amber on a car ride and a walk again. Went back to the ‘Quarters after dinner and spent Monday night cleaning the ‘Quarters, doing the laundry and cleaning the cats’ cages.

Felicity would have been spayed earlier today (Monday). I hope she is recovering well and not in any great pain or discomfort. I’ll probably send my housemate over to the SPCA on Thursday to look in on Felicity, as he will be helping me bring Halle & Co. in for neutering. I’m not usually emotional but I feel as though Biggles is flying loops in his confounded Sopwith Camel in my heart right now.

Project Second Chance would like to thank all its donors, sponsors and volunteers for their contributions, assistance and kind support:
1. Bernadette Chin
2. Lillian Danielle Khoo
3. Serina Rahman
4. Zawalan Razak
5. Jacobus Raj
6. Jessica Ng
7. Susan Thomas
8. Hazel McClure
9. Lee Mun Yee

Whiskey-Echo-Lima, Out.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Felicity Gets Adopted

It will soon be time for Halle and her kittens to have their first vaccination, so I am taking a break from capturing other stray cats for neutering for a couple of weeks. This week marks my 3rd week of trying to find my lovely little Felicity a good home.

Stopped by the wet market on my way to the SPCA to pick up the usual 2 kilos of peeled garlic. Arrived at the SPCA and set up Felicity’s cage and signboard. Handed the garlic to Mazni for cooking. Mun Yee dropped by to hand over cat food and newspapers to me for Project Second Chance.

Rose and I started shampooing and grooming the dogs in Kennels A and B. I prepared a pail of tickwash to rinse them with. It was sorely needed because a few of the new arrivals had infested the others with fleas. We had a teenager helping us, which is very encouraging, but I was concerned that the girl was immersing her hands unprotected into the bucket of tickwash, and so I offered to either lend her my rubber gloves or have her not do the tick rinse. She opted not to touch the tickwash instead.

After we had done all the dogs in Kennels A and B, I went out to the front of the shelter to get the cleaning equipment. I discussed the spaying of Felicity with Dr. Pushpa and she agreed that Felicity could be safely neutered by Monday. I held Felicity for a while and promised her that if she were not adopted, I would bring her home after her neutering.

A young family arrived to try to adopt a companion for their kitten which was adopted earlier from the SPCA. They had hoped to get a Persian kitten for breeding later, and this made Reve impatient. The vets and I took over from Reve and explained the SPCA’s neutering requirement to the family. They were happy to comply after being informed of the benefits of neutering, and were content to adopt any active and friendly kitten as a companion. As I spoke to them, I realized they were quite experienced in caring for multiple cats. I introduced them to Felicity, but also invited them to look around the shelter to see if there were any cats they would like to bring home.

They came back to Felicity and were very keen to adopt her, as they wanted an active and friendly cat, and Felicity fitted the bill. I explained that Felicity was to be neutered on Monday, and they could always place a booking fee for her and pick her up next Saturday after she has recovered from the surgery. They agreed, and paid the adoption fee in full without hesitation. They had no problems with the one-week wait and promised to bring their other kitty over for neutering when they come over on Saturday.

After the family had paid up and left, I hugged Felicity and told her that I would always love her. I will never forget her, but I pray she forgets me; and forgets me soon, so she could learn to love her new family instead. I pray she will live a healthy, happy and long life, and promised that if she ever gets returned, I will come and get her and bring her home, no matter what. As an animal rescuer, I will have to get used to having to say goodbye to my animal wards very often, but I pray that it will always only be ‘good’ goodbyes – ones that precede adoptions by kind and responsible individuals – and not the ‘other’ kind of goodbyes.

Dr. Pushpa asked me to put Felicity in the surgery to rest because Felicity’s constant contact with me would only make the transition more difficult. Reluctantly, I said goodbye and godspeed to Felicity and closed the door on my beloved kitty. I will always bless the day I found her begging at the stalls with her eyes half-blind from infection. I bless the day she came into my life and I hope her new family feels the same way about her.

Proceeded to clean the shelter. Soaped, scrubbed, disinfected and washed the Cattery, Maternity Kennels, Admin/Reception area, puppy kennels and food preparation area. Sugen offered to do the rinsing when I was done so I could clean myself up and head on home.

The drive home felt so lonesome without Felicity playing with her jingle ball in her carrier on the backseat. I reached the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, fed and cleaned up after the cats, tidied the house, showered and drove over to Jessica’s dad’s house to pick up the puppy. I had wanted to name him Ruffus but the parents wanted Cody, which is a pleasantly masculine name and I am certain Cody is a name any dog will feel proud to respond to.

Reached the parental home around dinnertime, introduced Cody to the parents and Amber, had dinner, did the washing up and spent the rest of the night in the company of the dogs.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Third World Stupid

Seems to me like this couple of weeks will be remembered for making sedition charges all the rage. First, blogger-activist Raja Petra was remanded and charged with sedition for calling for justice for the brutal murder of Mongolian beauty Altantunya. The exhortations in his blog would, at most, amount to libel, but the prosecution saw it fit to invoke the archaic, misunderstood and draconian law against sedition. Next, Member of Parliament Karpal Singh (‘outspoken and brash’ only to those who disagree with his views) had a police report lodged against him, also invoking the ‘offence’ of sedition, for questioning whether the appointment of the state religious leader is the prerogative of the state executive or the Sultan. Wonderful. Suddenly everything’s seditious.

Well Done, Gentlemen of the Ruling Coalition! You have just convinced us afresh of how small-minded, unintelligent, weak, easily threatened and prone to paranoia you all are. Thank you for continually giving us reminders to vote Opposition again in the next General Elections.

On another note: World Environment Day will soon be upon us again and the local dailies are doing their bit by running special feature stories on the environment. One of the journos from The Star had contacted Dylan, a former MNS branch committee member, who had in turn given her my contact details. The journo wanted to interview me in the capacity of Green Living coordinator, and so I agreed. I had expected the interview to be about the top priorities for environmentally conscious consumers, and not about my efforts as an individual, but in the end, she did end up asking me many superfluous questions about my personal actions. I don’t think readers want to read about what a lawyer does with her light fixtures and vegetable peels. I would think readers would want to know what activities have the highest impact on the environment and learn about the feasible and affordable alternatives to these damaging goods and practices.

Funnily enough, we devoted an entire half-hour of the interview to the topic of composting. And only a few hours ago, I had issued a very long and elaborate reply to a query on kitchen composting on the MNS Yahoogroup. Suddenly everyone’s asking me about composting. What, do I look like an expert in rotten things to you?
The interview was over in 1 ½ hours and I can only pray The Star would have better sense than to misquote its interviewees and put us in a bad light like the New Straits Times did last year for its environment pullout.

Thursday, 15th May 2008, was Pixie’s second birthday. My little boy turns two! I brought out the party tableware that evening and gave all 16 cats a treat in his honour. Each kitty received a bowl of tuna mash, topped off with a swirl of Hi-Vite and a piece of Pitter-Patter cat candy. Well, the cats enjoyed their treats so much that we had to cope with fish breath for the next 12 hours.

Halle’s babies polished off their portion and ate a good part of their mama’s share as well. Somehow they managed to get food all over themselves in the process. Now how did that happen? Is it possible that they licked their paws immediately after eating and anointed their foreheads and backs with the food? Keisha’s babies are not quite a month old but they know gourmet food when they smell it, and wobbled and crawled all the way to their mama’s food bowl to have a taste. I love all my kitties much more than I can express in words.

The Malaysian Naïve Art Showcase is on at the Central Market Annexe Gallery, so I went over to browse during my lunch hour on Friday, 16th May. You can view some of the images here: Malaysian Naïve Art Showcase
There must be something about two-dimensional drawings, technicolour trees and disproportionately huge birds, fish and butterflies, because the gallery was quite packed when I arrived. Everybody seems to love art that is charmingly simple on its surface but has hidden meaning and depth. The last such naïve art exhibition I visited was probably in 2002 or 2003, at City Square.

Anyway, there’s a fair bit of excitement in the parental neck of the woods. The parents have decided to adopt the puppy (first named Bear, then renamed Buster by Jessica) rather than leave him at the SPCA at the mercy of germs and infections and callous visitors. Well, it’s now Friday and Jessica will probably be bringing the puppy to me tonight, so it’s time for me to go back to the ‘Quarters, clean the place up and make room for the puppy.

Covert Operations, Over!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Mothers’ Day Weekend

Saturday, 10th May 2008 – Sunday, 11th May 2008: Mothers’ Day Weekend

Woke up early to feed and clean up after the kitties before heading on off to the MNS HQ for a brainstorming workshop conducted by our immediate past Branch Chairman, Anuar. I brought Felicity with me, as I would be going to the SPCA after the workshop and would try to find her a good home.

The workshop was productive and offered many interesting brainstorming strategies. As an incentive for creativity, Anuar offered prizes for 2 of the sessions. Rick won one for thinking up the highest number of uses for a paper clip. I won the second one for thinking up the most improvements to the standard shopping cart. Felicity lay curled up against my shoulder because she kept disrupting the sessions when left in the pet carrier to play with her jingle ball.

The workshop was over by noon and we thanked Anuar and left. I arrived at the SPCA around 1230h and set up Felicity’s cage in front so visitors could see her. She was happy to play with her ball and I told her I would be back soon.

Rose was there bathing dogs and cleaning cages already, and asked if I wanted to tickwash dogs with her. I made a large tub of Tactick solution, grabbed 5 leashes and set to work with Rose, bathing, rinsing, grooming and tickwashing dogs. We did all the dogs in Sick Bay, Kennels E & F and Appu’s Bay. There were a few gunk-filled ears for me to clean and a few sores to be medicated, but apart from that, there were no indications of injury or serious illness. Dr. Pushpa informed me that the garlic I bring every week is working very well, as the number of worm, tick and parasite infestations has gone down significantly (Note: Garlic is not toxic to pets unless given in large quantities continuously).

Reve came over to Sick Bay to call me out as there was a potential adopter for Felicity. They seemed like very nice people but were not truly committed to keeping a ‘common cat’ like Felicity. The trouble is, most of the visitors enjoy Felicity’s company and are quite willing to play with her, as she is a friendly, intelligent and healthy young cat. However, they came to the shelter hoping to get a Persian, Siamese or Bengal cat, and are not keen to bring home a ‘common tabby’ that they could not show off as status symbols. I am sad that breed discrimination is preventing Felicity from finding a good home. However, I would much rather find her a family that wants and loves her wholeheartedly, than foist her on someone who prefers pedigrees and will later abandon Felicity for a Persian. I will try to find her a home via e-mail appeal, and failing that, I will find a way to keep her without the housemates going ballistic over our growing zoo.


At 1700h, Rose and I washed and put away the pails, tubs, clippers, scissors and other dog cleaning and grooming paraphernalia. I got to work cleaning the shelter. I soaped, scrubbed and disinfected the Admin/Reception area, the kennels and the catteries while the dogs were out playing in the shelter compound.
Again, a few visitors turned up after closing hours to surrender their cats. I explained our policies and euthanasia rates to them and advised them to take responsibility for neutering their pets. I made them promise to make appointments with the Spay & Neuter Clinic and reminded them that their cats’ lives are in their hands. These are mostly simple-minded folk who are horrified at the idea of euthanasia and it didn’t take long for me to persuade them to neuter and save the lives of their animals instead.

Finished cleaning the shelter, showered, put Felicity back in the Battletank and bade goodbye to Reve, Rolled on back to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, tidied up, fed and cleaned up after the kitties and drove on over to the supermarket to buy Bulla Low Light 98% Fat Free Vanilla Ice Cream for Mom.
Crammed the ice cream tub into the beer cooler I keep in the Battletank and barreled back to the parental home in time to wish Mom a Happy Mothers’ Day at the stroke of midnight and hand her my gift of a chintz-patterned box of healthy treats.
Mothers’ Day was a pleasant affair. I cleaned the parental home, spring cleaned my bedroom, bathed Amber, checked the Battletank’s oil level and took Amber out on a car ride and walk. The Twin and his Girl arrived in the late afternoon and the Twin helped Dad troubleshoot the parental laptop.
We went out for Mothers’ Day dinner at the country grill which doesn’t play any country music and has Bangladeshi waiters who couldn’t even tell us what it was they had just brought to our table. The quality of food made up for the service and we had to agree that we enjoyed the dinner very much. We came home to the highly anticipated ice cream, which I served with peach slices. We instant-messaged Big Bro and got to see his new apartment thanks to the webcam. He showed us his bandaged arm and illustrated the bone inflammation for us. We waved our ice cream glasses at him and Sis-in-Law as they yelled Happy Mothers’ Day. The parents haven’t left the laptop alone since the day they acquired it and I foresee many happy hours of video-chatting friends and family.
I finally washed up, packed my things, kissed Amber goodbye and left the parental home at 2300h. Arrived at the Quarters to find that Jake had already fed the cats, bless his heart. Cleaned the cages and litter trays, did the laundry, swept the floor and went to bed flanked by Daisy and Pixie. It’s been a satisfactory weekend, although not incredible.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Animal Charities’ Inside Scoops

Wednesday, 7th May 2008: Serina dropped by the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters on Monday and handed me 6 bags of cat kibbles, a basket and sack of cat food pouches, pet toys, vitamins and supplement and all sorts of other good things for Project Second Chance. I was very touched, and I’m sure the cats are too. However, I had to confess that there was much more pet food than I had an immediate need for, and asked if I could share it with the Independent Pet Rescuers. Serina, ever generous, agreed because she acknowledged that the Independent Pet Rescuers work very hard at rehabilitating and rehoming animals nobody wants.

We could, of course, always donate some of the things to the SPCA. However, as SPCA is a registered charity and is the oldest and most recognized animal charity in the country, they have no shortage of donors and sponsors. The Independent Pet Rescuers run pretty much on donations and on the salaries of its volunteers and coordinators, who provide for the animals that live in their care. The Indies also work far harder at rehoming their animals than the SPCA does, because of their strong aversion to euthanasia. I will, however, defend the SPCA by explaining that we receive close to a thousand animals each month and are able to find homes for only approximately 10% of them, even with our publicity and outreach efforts.

Anyway, I contacted Sherrina on Tuesday and arranged to meet up with one of her Rescuer-Volunteers, Carnea, and her mother Julia, outside Secret Recipe on Wednesday, so I could hand them 3 bags of cat food, a bag of kitten wet food pouches, and a large stack of newspapers.

The 3 of us ended up sharing news on all the animal welfare groups operating in the country, whether registered charities or personal initiatives. It seems there is a lot that is not right with many animal charities, and then there are self-proclaimed rescuers who take in too many dogs and keep them in appalling conditions. There were also many misconceptions about the SPCA that I had to correct, for example, that we blacklist certain adopters, or that we do not allow renters to adopt. All these rumours were not substantiated, and I told Carnea that there is often more to the story than meets the eye.

If only all the time and energy poured into misinformation, slander, badmouthing and backstabbing could be channeled instead to true animal welfare work, there’d be a lot fewer strays out there. Animal rescue work isn’t a competition of who comes out looking best in the media. It is a competition of how well we can work together to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals in need and push for legislative reforms to protect animals. When there is care and protection for the animals, everyone wins.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

SPCA Weekend

Saturday, 3rd May 2008 - Sunday, 4th May 2008: SPCA Weekend.

Woke up at 0740h upon receiving a text message from Susan T. that she was free to come and help out at the SPCA today. Picked up my weekly 2 kilos of peeled garlic to be cooked in the shelter animals' food from the wet market and went to the foodstalls to see if they had any stray cats for neutering under Mission Help. The kind stallowners had managed to capture a grey tabby for spaying, but as one of their staff was holding on to the cat, she (the cat) clawed and bit her captor so fiercely that the poor girl screamed and had to let the cat go. After putting antiseptic from my First Aid Kit on the girl's wound and checking that she was okay, I left some cat food for the stall owners and told them that I would bring them a cage next week.

Put Felicity in the carrier to see if I could get her adopted this week. I would hate to have to say goodbye to her, but if I were to keep all the strays I found, I'd have no time, energy or funds left for my rescue work. I would much rather Felicity be adopted by a good family. I just hope they'd want to keep in touch with me and let me board Felicity from time to time if they want to go away on vacation.

Swung round to Bangsar to pick Susan T. up. We arrived at the SPCA around 1130h. Set up Felicity's cage and put up a sign stating her medical history and the fact that she is for adoption. Susan and I started walking the dogs from Kennel A, 2-by-2. Upon our return, I bathed and tickwashed the dogs, as Susan was not used to bathing dogs.

The Twin arrived around 1300h, bringing Bear (the fostered puppy) back for vaccination. Prasan waited in the car while the Twin surrendered Bear. Both of them were quite emotional about having to part with the puppy. Prasan's family did a great job with Bear, as he had grown much bigger in just 3 weeks and was a picture of health. The Twin took a frightfully long time explaining Bear's needs, likes and dislikes to me. As though I didn't know how to look after a dog!

I put Bear into an oversized, cavernous carrier on loan from Dr. Pushpa and resumed my animal care duties. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Susan had overcome her fear of bathing dogs enough to bathe and tickwash the dogs while I was dealing with the Twin. Well, miracles happen every day! We went on walking, bathing and tickwashing dogs until it started to rain. Susan and I then took a quick lunch break while waiting for the rain to let up.

It was still drizzling when we got back to the shelter, so we decided to clean the shelter instead. I made 2 pails of soap and disinfectant solution for our use. Susan and I cleaned the Catteries, the Maternity Kennel, Kennels E, F and G, the Puppery, the cooking area and the central area.

In the evening, Reve let the dogs out to play in the shelter compound while Susan and I cleaned the Reception/Admin area. Halfway through our cleaning, a Malay lady came with her daughters to surrender her cats. Apparently she knew nothing about neutering and had let her 2 female cats breed. Now she found that she was unable to look after all the cats and had to surrender them. Before I could talk to her, Reve started shouting at the lady and screaming things about "Muslims saying it's a sin to neuter pets but sending many, many cats to be put to sleep". The lady and her daughters started crying and apologising. It was clear that like so many members of the public, they have no knowledge of the harsh reality of animal shelter euthanasia rates. They had obviously thought, in good faith, that the SPCA was the right place to send animals that they could no longer care for. After all, the Malay name of the SPCA is "Persatuan Menolong Haiwan", i.e. Animal-Helping Society. The lady then asked for her cats back but Reve would have none of it. Susan asked me to intervene, and although I know better than to mess with Reve when she's angry, I intervened anyway. I know Reve wouldn't stay angry with me for long.

I explained to the distressed lady and her daughters about the animal surrender rates and the percentage of those euthanised. I showed them around the shelter so they could see how crowded our kennels are. We have grossly exceeded our limit of animals housed in the shelter and although we have executed new strategies including having outreach and adoption booths at shopping centres, the surrender rates still exceed the adoption rates tenfold. I then talked about the benefits of neutering and gave them our shelter literature on the neutering of cats. The lady and her daughters agreed to bring their cats home and have a neutering appointment fixed within the week. I gave them my number and business card in case they encountered any problems with the Neutering Clinic staff. I apologised on behalf of the SPCA and asked them to forgive Reve, as she "is a foreigner and not of our culture, and may be a bit too blunt and may have said offensive and unacceptable things".

Reve apologised to me later for snapping at me, and although I was by then very weary from brainworm (i.e the kind of headache that leaves me lethargic, depressed and nauseated), I told her that there was little point in shouting at people and offending them because it would not help the cause of animal welfare. You can't educate people by angering, intimidating or humiliating them. There are many, many cruel people out there who kick stray animals for fun and ill-treat living beings, but this lady wasn’t one of them. She had apologized and had wanted to bring her cats home. You should always give someone a chance if they apologise, because it means they have learned from their mistakes and are willing to do better. If you don’t give someone the opportunity to make amends, how could we ever become a more caring and more civil society?

I know Reve cares very deeply about animals and is one of the best animal welfare workers you can find, but you won't be able to accomplish much if you can't engage other people and get them to help you in your fight against animal abuse and pet abandonment. You can't keep on believing that you can't change the way people are, and that if they've made up their minds to abandon their pets, they will. That is a defeatist attitude that demonstrates a lack of faith in the innate goodness of people.

If you had asked me 5 years ago if I liked animals better than I liked people, I would have said "Yes" without hesitation. Today, however, I believe there is no real choice between which one I cared for more. I work for animal rights and welfare because animals and the environment have no suffrage, and I strive to give them a better life because I can. But at the same time, I don't believe that humans are less honest or less likeable than animals. I believe that deep down inside, people are essentially good, and people do the best they can, in what they believe is in the best interests of their families or community. People's values are often influenced by their religion, culture, economic exigencies and even the policies of the government of the day (e.g. "if the Internal Security Act has been passed by Parliament, it must be necessary and it must be for the good of the country").

So in our case, the lady was of the opinion, in good faith, that instead of abandoning her cats at the roadside, the best thing she could do was to surrender them to the SPCA. She was not aware that she had the option of neutering them and bringing them home. In my opinion, many people act the way they do out of ignorance and lack of awareness. To bring about change and to reform animal welfare policies in this country, we have to take this approach:
1. Create awareness on the benefits of neutering/spaying your pets.
2. Provide access to affordable spaying/neutering.
3. Create awareness of shelter and pound euthanasia rates.
4. Use schools and the mass media to disseminate information on responsible pet ownership.
5. Create incentives for people who neuter, vaccinate and provide proper care for their companion animals.
6. Instill pride in a society that cares for its animals.

In dealing with this issue, anger is counterproductive. Reve may have the best of intentions but she doesn't realise that she's alienating people and making the public wary about having to work with the SPCA. People could be negligent or uncaring or downright cruel, but people could also be agents of change and reform. Susan reminded me never to become "angry and bitter like Reve", because "you may be the best animal shelter volunteer on Earth, but if you can't work with your fellow man, then I can't say very much for your effectiveness as a volunteer". I agree with you, Susan, and I thank you for your reminder. I pray I never become angry or bitter either. Each day, I learn better ways of communicating with people and helping them make better choices that will result in less harm to other living beings.

Susan and I finished cleaning the shelter, cleaned ourselves up, picked up Felicity (who wasn’t adopted today) and Bear (who is to be fostered for 2 weeks by Jessica’s father) and drove on home. Dropped Susan off at her home, went back to the ‘Quarters. Got my animal babies fed, cleaned up and settled down.

Rolled on back to the parental home on Saturday night. I think the Battletank’s driveshaft is rumbling. I hope it’s not going to be expensive to repair. Completely flaked by the time I was done having dinner with the parents and doing the washing up. Could not sleep thanks to the brainworm. I wonder if this warrants an MRI scan, or if I’m just being a hypochondriac.

Sunday wasn’t a productive one for me. Bathed Amber, tidied up the insides of the Battletank, cleaned the living and dining rooms, took Amber on a walk and a car ride and that was all. No major projects undertaken.

Went back to the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters late Sunday night, cleaned the cages, did my laundry, cleaned the ‘Quarters up and was stayed up until morning replying to e-mails and typing my blog entries.

Project Second Chance would like to thank all its donors, sponsors and volunteers for their contributions, assistance and kind support:
1. Bernadette Chin
2. Lillian Danielle Khoo
3. Serina Rahman
4. Zawalan Razak
5. Jacobus Raj
6. Jessica Ng
7. Susan Thomas
8. Hazel McClure

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Labour Day jaunt to the Kuala Selangor Nature Park


I had initially decided to spend the Labour Day holiday at the SPCA, but since I would be going there on Saturday anyway, I opted to do some trail cleanup work at any one of my favourite camping or trekking sites instead. I wasn't able to contact any of the Feroza Gang to come with me, and a few of my friends have gone off on a mountaineering adventure. Lillian was in hospital for a check-up, while Mun Yee was in Melaka playing football in the Bench and Bar Games. I decided to take a drive down to Kuala Selangor on my own because it was to be only a day trip and I didn’t want to have to drive for hours.

The Kuala Selangor Nature Park ("KSNP") was gazetted by the state government in 1987 and is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society. One of the best things about the park is that it is a synthesis of 2 ecosystems: tropical rainforest and coastal wetlands. I go there pretty much once a year and have not grown tired of it yet. I know that on weekends and public holidays, our friends from the Bird SIG can probably be found doing their LAMIBA (Local Area Monitoring of Important Bird Areas) data collection work at the Park, so I could always join them for a bit of birding if trail-cleaning gets too lonesome.

I reached the foot of Melawati Hill by midmorning. There was a family of Silver Leaf Monkeys feeding in the trees, and they watched me with their comical faces and held out their little black hands to me when I started eating the organic seed and berry trail mix I brought. I love Silver Leaf Monkeys because they are mostly gentle and retiring, not brash and belligerent like the Long-Tailed Macaques. I could write a book about the mischief the Long-Tailed Macaques get up to in my neighbourhood, playing on the park equipment, lifting our roof tiles, uprooting our potted plants, getting into the trash and stealing food. But Silver Leaf Monkeys are a different story. I tipped trail mix into each tiny hand and watched the monkeys nibble daintily at the treats. One tugged at the corner of my jersey and held out her hand for more treats. The others watched without attacking. If they had been Long-Tailed Macaques, I would have been mauled to death by now. I bought them bananas and the monkeys accepted the goodies politely with both hands, nibbling the bananas and staring at us with grateful eyes. We really shouldn't be feeding the monkeys, but Loretta and Vegan Eugene were not here to tell us off, so I could feed all the monkeys I want, with impunity.

Walked into the KSNP office and chatted with the staff after gaining admission. My old friend Laila was circling the grounds on her motorbike to check that the gates were locked and that the visitors were not starting fires or leaving litter behind. I walked past the office and campsite and down the first trail towards the lake, putting any litter I saw into the biodegradable garbage bag I brought with me. The Park was largely clean and litter-free, except near the mudflats where the river tides would bring the flotsam in.

There was no shortage of fauna sightings. Of birds, there were Greater Racquettail Drongos, Black-Naped Orioles, White-Throated Kingfishers, Pied Fantails, Common Ioras and Laced Woodpeckers around the trails, and Brahminy Kites, Purple Herons, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Great Egrets and Chinese Pond Herons at the lake. Besides the pugnacious Long-Tailed Macaques and canopy-dwelling Silver Leaf Monkeys, I didn't spot any other mammals. In the mudflats and water, there were Giant Mudskippers, Blue Spotted Mudskippers, Fiddler Crabs, Monitor Lizards, River Snails and other smaller fauna galore. Blink, and you might miss something.

We encountered a few of our birder friends and fellow MNS members along the trails. I managed to make conversation with 2 photography enthusiasts and persuaded them to join MNS, as they love nature photography but could not find many other people to go on field trips with.

Completed cleaning up all the trails in the Park by late evening. Deposited the bottles and cans into the recycling bins at the Park. Showered at the campsite's communal bathroom. Came out to the car park to find a monkey sitting langorously on the Battletank. Laila asked me to chase the monkey off, but I couldn't bring myself to say "Shoo!" to the monkey, so I tapped the monkey on the shoulder instead.

Two of the KSNP staff had by now gathered round to watch the fun. "Hello, excuse me," I said to the monkey, tapping him on the shoulder again. He merely turned around, gave me an insolent look, and went back to leaning against the back windscreen of the Ranger. The KSNP staff dissolved in a fit of giggles, pointing and carrying on. I tapped the monkey on the shoulder once more and explained that we had to leave and could not bring him with us as it was against the Protection of Wildlife Act. I switched the engine on but the monkey was unfazed. I finally brought out the last of my trail mix and managed to lure the recalcitrant monkey away from the pickup and onto the grass using the goodies.

At the foot of Melawati Hill, I decided I would like to go up the hill on the tram. I bought a ticket and duly rode up the Hill on a trip with a tramload of tourists. We disembarked on the top to visit the ruins of the old fort, the lighthouse and the royal mauselum. The view from the top was fantastic as usual, but I was disappointed to see a lot of litter. I believe the hawkers should be charged a fee for the cleaning and upkeep of the area, as they are primarily responsible for the litter being there in the first place. There were only a couple of rubbish bins, which is grossly inadequate when there are so many mobile hawkers selling all sorts of junk food.

Left Melawati Hill when it got dark and reached the city around 2100 hours. Went back to the 'Quarters, fed and cleaned up after the cats, tidied the place up and mopped the floor. It's been a public holiday well-spent.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

“The 11th Hour” Malaysian Premiere at KLPAC


I verily believe the environmental offender, YTL Corporation, is trying to ingratiate itself into the good graces of the Malaysian Nature Society. We had just been informed, quite at the last minute, that we have been invited to set up a booth at the KL Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) at the Malaysian premiere of "The 11th Hour" on Tuesday evening, and that we would be given a certain number of complimentary tickets. Am not sure what transpired between YTL and our HQ staff but the Branch Committee was given tickets as well. Gary called up to ask if I could make it to the premiere. Besides feeding and cleaning up after 16 cats, cleaning a house, preparing several reports, drafting a legal opinion and practicing for an upcoming bowling tournament, no... I didn't have anything to do, so I agreed to come for the screening.

The documentary was pretty mind-blowing. I strongly recommend that it be translated into all major languages and screened on national TV in all countries. I believe it should be compulsory screening in schools and government departments. If 'An Inconvenient Truth' made our indifferent public sit up and listen, then 'The 11th Hour' would make them want to get up and take action.

For me, watching the documentary was like witnessing a reunion of old friends. The heroes of my youth, including Kenny Ausubel, the founder of Bioneers, environmentalist and TV presenter David Suzuki and Janine Benyus, author of "Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature", were interviewed in this documentary to speak on the topic that matters most to them: Mother Earth.

The message conveyed is one that each of us should treat with utmost importance: Climate change should not be debated as though it were an issue of faith, i.e. "I believe / don't believe in climate change". All scientific evidence shows that the current rate of global warming is unnatural and dangerous, and the human race is on the verge of self-destruction. There is nothing alarmist about this. Contrary to the argument of religious fundamentalists that environmentalists are attacking the institution of marriage and family by calling for a slowdown of human population expansion, the solution we environmentalists advocate ISN'T in not having babies, it's in finding cleaner and more efficient alternatives to practices and inventions that are polluting, wasteful and unsustainable. Just as humans have the ability to destroy, we also have the capacity to innovate, rebuild, heal, rehabilitate and protect.

As I have often lectured in my public speeches and Letters to the Editor, the Malthusian idea that a finite Earth cannot sustain indefinite human expansion is just an idea and not natural law. The Planet can sustain 6 billion people or 60 billion, depending on the way we utilise our space and resources. Ultimately, this is what makes the documentary both affecting and uplifting. It alerts us to the urgency of climate change, yet it also reminds us that the current rate of global warming can be halted and environmental destruction mitigated, if not reversed.