Thursday, 28 July 2011
Letter to the Editor: Johor State Zoo -- A Crying Shame!
Paloh the Baby Elephant -- subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Her only crime is that she has the bad fortune of being housed in Johor Zoo.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR:
JOHOR STATE ZOO – A CRYING SHAME!
Johor state Local Government, Housing, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Ahmad Zahri Jamil’s defence of the Johor Zoo (The Star,“No reason to shut down state’s iconic park, says exco man”, Monday July 25, 2011) is flippant and preposterous. The zoo’s long history, low ticket prices and high number of local visitors are neither justifications for cruelty to animals nor indicators of the Zoo's animal welfare standards or educational value.
The recent outrage over Johor Zoo’s cruel treatment of Paloh the baby elephant is only the latest in a long line of complaints against the zoo for wildlife offences and animal abuse and exploitation. As recently as 2010, Johor Zoo was openly selling illegal wildlife in a shop within its premises, and in 2011 the Zoo made the headlines again with Shirley the chain-smoking orang-utan.
In May 2011, it was reported that all wildlife establishments would now have to undergo auditing under new guidelines drawn up by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. (The Star, “Audit on all who keep wild animals” Friday May 6, 2011). This move is a timely and welcome one, and any progress on the implementation of the said audit guidelines would be highly appreciated.
With the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 (Act 716) in
December 2010, cruelty to wildlife is finally recognized as a criminal offence, and enforcement agencies such as Perhilitan are now endowed with the power to monitor wildlife displays and wildlife in captivity. The closure of the Saleng Zoo in June 2011 demonstrates that Perhilitan is capable to taking positive action against errant zoos and wildlife facilities. It is therefore imperative that Perhilitan requires all zoos and parks, including Johor Zoo, to comply with the standards set by the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (MAZPA), failing which permits and licences may be revoked or not issued. Although these guidelines are not legally binding, they would provide direction in ensuring that zoos are professionally managed and will advance the cause of animal rights and welfare.
Johor Zoo needs urgent reform, if not a complete closure until a new management panel can be appointed, in order to protect the safety and health of the animals it houses. It is critical that Perhilitan and other NGOs and zoo associations be allowed to inspect and audit Johor Zoo and offer recommendations to be implemented immediately to prevent further harm to the animals. Failure to comply with the recommendations should result in the suspension or closure of Johor Zoo, the revocation of its licence, and the seizure and transfer of its animal residents to better facilities. If the Johor State Exco views tourist numbers as the main indicator of success, then it is submitted that improvements to the animals’ welfare and living conditions would greatly increase the number of visitors and positive feedback.
Zoos, aquariums and animal parks should be educational facilities that provide both humans the opportunity to learn about the natural history of wild animals and the need to protect and conserve the natural habitats of wildlife, and captive animals the opportunity to learn survival and social skills natural to their specie. Exploiting wildlife under the guise of preserving endangered specie is reprehensible and goes against the goals of conservation and environmental education.
WONG EE LYNN
Please come and sign the petition too! Send Baby Paloh To A Sanctuary!