Sunday, 14 March 2010

NGOs: Review issuance of permits for keeping endangered species

Thursday March 4, 2010

NGOs: Review issuance of permits for keeping endangered species


PETALING JAYA: Several non-governmental organisations have urged the Natural Resources and Environ¬ment Ministry to be stricter in issuing special permits for keeping endangered species in zoos and animal parks.

Various organisations have stepped forward to draw attention to the issue, following a Starprobe report yesterday. Regional director Bill Schaedla of Traffic Southeast Asia, which monitors the wildlife trade, said zoos with special permits could be conducting questionable activities.

“Zoos with bad track records receiving permits are obviously a thing we find worrisome.
“We hope the Government will carefully evaluate these practices,” he said, urging the authorities to investigate the acquisition of all protected species by zoos and animal collections.
Small prison: Tiger cubs are usually caged for long hours during transportation.

Schaedla also called for better monitoring of existing holders of permits and licences for protected wildlife.

“A special permit should not imply special treatment under the law,” he told The Star.
He said several zoos had cases pending against them for illegal wildlife trade.
“It is difficult to understand why licences continue to be issued to those who are under investigation by the authorities for involvement in this trade,” he said.

“Zoos which claim to work towards conservation on one hand and then become involved in the illegal trading of animals on the other are damaging the very biodiversity that they purport to protect and are deceiving their visitors.”

The Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat) has also pushed for more action to be taken against errant zoos.

It urged the authorities to terminate their permits and licences to prevent further violations, adding that some had committed repeat offences over the years.

“If effectively policing the activities of zoos is a task too great for the authorities to handle, considering that their primary responsibility is to safeguard wildlife in the wild, perhaps only internationally accredited zoos which do not commit wildlife crimes should be allowed to operate,” it added.

It is learnt that the ministry has extended the purview of the existing taskforce set up by Perhilitan to include the issuance of special permits to private facilities breeding tigers.
The taskforce was set up following a Starprobe report last August on convicted Malaysian wildlife trader Anson Wong.

Several Malaysian zoos have been linked to the illegal wildlife trade in the past.
They include Perak Zoo for its involvement in smuggling gorillas and a mini-zoo in Johor for possessing animals, including 19 tiger cubs, without permits.

Thursday March 4, 2010

Seven cases against popular zoo, says Perhilitan


PETALING JAYA: The zoo that came under the spotlight over breeding and trading in endangered animals has had at least seven run-ins with the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) since 2003.

These have resulted in two court cases and one compound notice being issued. The rest are currently at various stages of the legal process, the department said.
The department, however, did not provide details on the nature of the offences, or the outcome of the court cases.

Media reports of some of the seven cases relate to the zoo being in possession of animals without the requisite permits.

As a result of these cases, animals have been seized from the zoo, among them a baby elephant, two slow lorises, a baby wild boar and an unspecified number of pythons and storks.

The most shocking case was a raid on June 11, 2008, that unearthed 19 tiger cub carcasses in a freezer in the zoo.

Perhilitan, in a statement, said genetic sampling of 10 of the 19 carcasses showed that they were hybrid species, attesting that they were cubs bred in the zoo and not from the wild.

The zoo keeper explained that the carcasses were accumulated over a period of at least three years.

“We inform Perhilitan of every tiger birth and death. The carcasses are kept until Perhilitan comes to check.”

On the high mortality of tiger cubs, the keeper said: “They died from the cold during the rainy season or because their mothers were not good at taking care of them. But we have improved now. There are fewer cubs dying.”
As to the raids, he said that there had been 11 since 2003.

“I am not sure about the progress of the court cases.”
The zoo is one of three facilities that caught the attention of NatureAlert, an organisation based in Britain that fights for the welfare and protection of orang utan.

It sent its observation report on the facilities to Perhilitan last month, and is awaiting a response on action to be taken by the department.

In its report, a copy of which was made available to The Star, NatureAlert director Sean Whyte questioned the inhumane and filthy living conditions of the pair of orang utan at the facility, which he believed contravened at least two provisions of wildlife law.

The report cautioned that the zoo was a potential breeding ground for zoonotic diseases that not only threatened the animals but also zoo visitors.
It further queried the perceived immunity enjoyed by the zoo management despite the string of offences.

It pointed to Section 44 (1) of the Wildlife Act, which stipulates that first offenders should have their licence suspended. Subsequent convictions should result in disqualification from holding a licence for five years.

However, the zoo continues to operate and announce new additions to its collection.