Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Taiping Zoo caught red-handed, again

Sean Whyte Jul 14, 09 Malaysiakini, Malaysia

It was encouraging to read of Perhilitan's quick response to the tip off that orangutans were being held illegally by the Taiping Zoo and a nearby ostrich breeder.

The response from Dr Kevin Lazarus to the confiscation of the orangutans would be laughable if it were not so serious. Here is a man in charge of a zoo which, by any standard, is notorious for its involvement in the illegal trade of great apes, having previously been caught red-handed with four wild caught gorillas.

On that occasion, although after a very prolonged delay the gorillas were returned to Africa, Taiping Zoo, were, inexplicably, never prosecuted by Perhilitan. Even the exporters were prosecuted in Nigeria, not exactly a country renowned for its law enforcement.

Now, after being caught yet again with illegal wild animals, Lazarus wants us to believe he accepted these orangutans out of the kindness of his heart whilst knowing they were illegal. Despite holding these orangutans for three weeks, Lazarus, chairman of the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria, no less, seemingly did not think to pick up the telephone and report the matter to Perhilitan. Does this strike anyone as suspicious?

All of which raises a few questions. This time will Perhilitan have the guts to prosecute the people responsible? It clearly has enough evidence.

Where are the other two orangutans? Maybe it is a coincidence, but in recent months 10 baby orangutans are known to have been smuggled out of East Kalimantan - for every orangutan illegally traded another four will have either died whilst being caught or soon after in transit, a figure which means 40 orangutans have died in this one example alone.

And Malaysian zoos have previously been found with orangutans from Indonesia. We can only hope this time, and unlike in the past, Perhilitan will not drag its feet on this issue.