Remembering Sheena

Stop Animal Abuse in Malaysia.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Singapore based Acres Complains About Poor Condition Of Animals At Zoo Negara



KUALA LUMPUR: A visitor giving a plastic bag to a hungry elephant?

This was observed at Zoo Negara, and reported by Singapore-based Acres (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) during an inspection in September last year.

"The female elephant was observed begging for food," said Acres executive director Louis Ng.

Ng said there were very few keepers at elephant enclosures to keep an eye on visitors around the animals.

As a result, visitors were seen making lots of noise around the enclosures and teasing the animals.

"We urge Zoo Negara to ensure that keepers or volunteers are stationed near all the enclosures at all times, especially during busy periods, to regulate visitor behaviour."

He said visitors could reach and touch the elephants' trunks, and could easily give food or objects to the animals, or throw food and objects into the enclosure.

Acres said that the enclosures of at least 10 types of animals at Zoo Negara failed to meet international standards.

Although standards for animal welfare at Zoo Negara were higher than most zoos in Malaysia, the inspection found the enclosures did not meet all of Acres' Acceptable Standards for the Wellbeing of Animals.

These standards include exhibition of animals, accommodation and care of animals, the policy for exhibiting primates and carnivores, as well as modern zoo practices .

The enclosures that were evaluated included those of the Asian elephants; Malayan sun bears; Asiatic black bears; Brown bears; African lions; Gir lions; Sumatran tigers; Bengal and Malaysian tigers; leopards and cougars.

Ng said the abnormal behaviour, including stereotypic behaviour, of the animals at the zoo was of great concern.

This indicated that the wellbeing of the animals was being compromised by their living conditions and/or husbandry.

"Most stereotypic behaviour occurs when animals fail to cope with or remove themselves from stressful situations."

Ng added that all the enclosures inspected were too small.

"The elephant enclosure was especially small, and it would be beneficial for the elephants to be moved to a larger, more natural environment. All of the bear enclosures were also far too small."

Ng said he was pleased that Zoo Negara had followed many of Acres' recommendations to improve animal welfare.

"The improvements that Zoo Negara has made this year include the refurbishment of the leopard enclosure, the addition of furniture to the Sumatran tiger and Gir lion enclosures, the cessation of elephant shows and releasing the elephants from chains during the day," he said.

For the long term, Acres recommends that zoos move away from traditional small cages and enclosures to larger, natural fenced areas.

They should also phase out keeping wide-ranging species such as elephants and polar bears on welfare grounds.

"We urge zoos to reconsider the keeping of species that are adapted to cold weather environments such as polar bears and brown bears, in tropical climates that are entirely unsuitable for them," said Ng.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) said Malaysia should have laws that stipulate minimum physical requirements for captive animals.

"Zoos will then have to conform to quality to receive the exhibitor's licence essential to legal operations," said SAM president S.M. Mohd Idris.

Idris said there had been letters to the press voicing concern over the animals in Zoo Negara.

"Then again zoos are always dependent on sponsorships or funding of sorts as gate collection alone is not enough.

"To increase gate collection, zoos are constantly taking in new species as added attractions to woo the public."

Idris said the number of animals which may be housed in a zoo should be limited.

A good zoo director, said Idris, would keep his inventory within limit, looking at the size, display space and funds that are available.

Rather than spending large amounts on building new exhibits and bringing in new species, Zoo Negara should instead improve existing animal enclosures by providing environmental enrichment.

Zoos, he added, should also make public the deaths of animals in their zoos as well as the causes.

"Zoo Negara should explain the cause of death of the 18 penguins out of 20 sourced from Singapore, the death of species like the pygmy hippopotamuses, cheetahs from Africa and Bawean deer from Indonesia.

"The zoo had nine of this endangered deer and four died."

He said a true appreciation of wildlife cannot be achieved by looking at bored, frustrated animals in cages.

"In these modern times, the Internet and television is where people learn about animals in their natural habitats."


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