Sunday October 14, 2012
Animal welfare takes precedence
THE president of the newly- formed Zoo Operators, Breeders, Wildlife Entrepreneurs and Animal Hobbyists Association cautioned in an earlier statement that if zoo guidelines were not rescinded, more zoos would face closure.
According to the president, these closures would have an adverse effect on tourism.
Contrary to this belief, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) points out that zoos are not a tourist draw, considering that more than 80% of visitors are from within their surrounding community.
Of these patrons, approximately half are people who will make return visits. These return visits only occur at new zoos.
Eventually, these return visitors stop coming, which results in the loss of profitability without a sustainable source of new patrons. Consequently, the zoos will proceed down a path of deterioration.
Zoos are all too often viewed as places to amuse and entertain, rather than places that meet animal welfare standards.
These standards are not often met, resulting in public criticism.
The lack of enforcement has caused animals to suffer over the years at the hands of incompetent zoo operators.
In addition, when a zoo faces financial constraints, the animals will face added suffering.
The photographs of animal misery speak volumes as to the inadequacy of such animal establishments.
The zoos are unable to equip themselves with the requisite knowledge or commitment to properly understand and maintain the animals in conditions that meet their species-specific needs.
Many animals and birds are still needlessly suffering, and without urgent action by Perhilitan, the inadequacies are likely to continue.
For years, zoos have responded to accusations of cruelty by adopting a defensive attitude.
They have often used a “we know best approach” in an effort to persuade visitors and NGOs to accept their definitions of what is cruel and what is not.
Zoos must be prepared to accept the fact that they cannot realistically recreate the fundamentals of life and habitat.
Given the appalling conditions of some zoos, it is beyond one’s capacity to suggest that visitors will learn anything meaningful about an animal’s wild behaviour or leave the zoo with a new-found impetus to protect wild species.
Zoo expertise and professional ethics that have since remained unchallenged must be subjected to controls from a higher authority, and legislation must regulate the basics of quality animal husbandry. Those institutions that are found lacking must then face sanctions for their violations.
If professionalism is to be part of future zoo programmes, zoo directors should be licensed by the Government to manage only facilities for which their ability and expertise qualifies them.
SAM once again reiterates its stand that legislation for animal welfare must be explicitly in favour of the animals and any loophole which might permit abuse of captive wild animals must be eliminated.
S.M. MOHD IDRIS