Monday, 31 May 2010


PRESS RELEASE 1st June 2010

Photos of this orangutan will appear shortly on this blog.


Johor Zoo is slammed by conservationists for orangutan addicted to smoking cigarettes.

“Shirley” the adult female orangutan kept with her mate in an antiquated pit-like cage at Johor Zoo, has been allowed to become a chain-smoker. With no supervision over, or restrictions on visitors, many have been seen to throw lighted cigarettes to Shirley.

Being intelligent but bored in captivity with no natural enrichment, Shirley has learnt to imitate people smoking and now her life is in danger; but she has no way of knowing this.

Sean Whyte, CEO of Nature Alert said, “Perhilitan must immediately step in, help Shirley, and place a ban of all foreign objects being thrown into her cage. I have seen cigarettes, cans, bottles, food packets tossed into the enclosure, littering the entire area. Zoo staff need to be trained in the management of enclosures and moreover warning notices to visitors, against littering throwing cigarettes and other items to the orangutans, urgently need to be positioned around the cage before it is too late for Shirley and her mate.”

Conservationists complain that over the course of numerous under-cover visits to Johor Zoo, they never once saw a keeper in attendance anywhere near the orangutan cage. Members of the public were often seen throwing lit cigarettes to Shirley. She appears to suffer severe mood swings, sometimes looking drowsy – as if drugged, other times without a cigarette she was very agitated, looking as if she could be suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Sean Whyte continued, “We have submitted a detailed, illustrated report to Dato’ Abd Rasid Samsudin, Director General, Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsula Malaysia, and we call on him to take immediate action on the breaches of the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 we have listed. The top priority must be to provide Shirley with expert veterinary help.”

This if the fifth in a series of critical zoo reports provided by Nature Alert to Dato’ Abd Rasid Samsudin. To date, only one has been even partially acted upon, leading to even greater suspicion amongst NGO’s that the department takes better care of wildlife traders - legal and illegal, as well as zoo owners. If Perhilitan will not enforce the existing law, there is no hope of the widely touted new wildlife protection law being enforced.


Malaysia has already this year attracted stinging international criticism in the prestigious National Geographic magazine for the country’s involvement in the wildlife trade.

Malaysian Zoo’s have previously been caught with illegally caught orangutans in their possession. The most recent case being of three orangutans found at Taiping Zoo; inexplicably a case, as yet, to be prosecuted.

Earlier this month as a direct result of public and NGO criticism, Perhilitan introduced a ban on the use of orangutans in circus-like shows. This ban was extended to cover the use of tigers in souvenir photo sessions such as the ones held at A’Famosa Animal World Safari.

The population of orangutans in the wild is estimated at approximately 55,000 -60,000, 75% of which live outside of protected areas and is believed to currently be declining at the rate of about 3000 animals a year. This is due loss of their habitats through the expansion of oil, palm plantations and logging activities.

Loggers and oil palm company employees kill the mother orangutan and steal the baby from her still warm chest. The babies are then sold through a black market illegal trade, often ending with them appearing in zoos in countries like Thailand or Cambodia.

For every baby orangutan which survives capture and onward shipping, experts believe another six will have died either during capture, or though injuries and ill treatment afterwards.

Nature Alert works internationally and is a leading campaign organisation against the trade in orangutans. It led the campaign in 2006 which forced Thailand to send 48 orangutans back to Indonesia. blog: