By G. Vinod
A coalition of animal conservation NGOs today criticised the Johor Zoo for keeping its bears in deplorable condition.
Hasrul Mohamed of the Malaysian Friends of the Animals said that they were shocked to find sun bears, also known as honey bears, kept in cramped and deplorable cages.
“The sight of these bears in tiny concrete and iron cages will haunt me forever. The cages are like something you imagine existed back in ancient times,” he said.
Nature Alert CEO, Sean Whyte, said while he was aware that the zoo is facing monetary problems, it did not excuse the management keeping the bears in such pitiful conditions.
He criticised the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) for keeping mum on the matter despite being notified about these bears over a year ago.
“This is not the first time Johor Zoo was reprimanded. Perhilitan was once forced to rescue orangutans and elephants kept in the zoo after a public outrage,” said Whyte.
He said Perhilitan should to get off its high horse and start taking complaints on these neglected animals seriously.
“Perhilitan should feel ashamed of itself for allowing Johor Zoo to remain open. Do [the keepers\ even inspect the zoos or just sit around drinking coffee and playing computer games?” asked Whyte.
Johor Zoo responds
Johor Zoo manager Zakaria Razali, in response, slammed the NGOs, claiming the latter did not understand his predicament. “The NGOs will never be satisfied with anything we do,” he said. Zakaria insisted that the bears were kept in cages based on their sizes. However, he acknowledged that the enclosures did not meet Perhilitan’s specifications.
“My zoo was set up in the 1960s while Perhilitan just came up with its specifications recently. I have spoken to the authorities and promised them that we will make changes in stages,” he said.
Zakaria added that his zoo faced budget constraints and he has made requests to the Johor state government for additional fundings.
“If I get RM3 million a year then it will be all right but my zoo only receives about RM200,000 to RM300,000 annually,” he said.
On whether he made requests for additional funding, Zakaria said he had made the application but refused to provide details.
There was no response from Perhilitan despite several attempts to reach it.