Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Wildlife ruling must go further

Letters - The Sun newspaper

Wildlife ruling must go further

SAHABAT Alam Malaysia (SAM) is relieved to learn that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks has finally put a halt to the exploitation of captive wildlife in the form of animal shows and photographic sessions. This came about as a result of the shocking exposé on “Tiger being abused for money”. At the same time SAM would like to urge for an end to all photography sessions with animals and wildlife in zoos, resorts, theme parks and other animal establishments.

The mistreatment and exploitation of wildlife all under the name of tourism and entertainment is both shocking and bewildering. It is disgusting that animals are viewed as property to be exploited to the fullest. The use of these animals in photographic sessions is widespread with similar occurrences in the other zoos. Saleng Zoo for instance displayed a lethargic looking one-month-old tiger cub.

We believe the tiger must have also been doped to maintain such low levels of aggression due to its close proximity to the many unfamiliar humans. The response from zoos and resorts are nothing more than plain denial, often maintaining that the tiger’s sluggish behaviour simply reflects natural resting patterns after a well-fed meal.

For a fee, visitors including young children can touch, sit or stand in front or back of the animal to have their photographs taken. Staff prop up the tiger, prodding and poking to oblige them to adopt and maintain appealing poses and make them look compliant.When constantly subjected to handling and stress the cats become ticking “time bombs” waiting to launch a fatal attack on humans.

Tiger cubs used for photo are often still babies and are forcibly removed from their mothers, causing extreme stress to both mother and baby. In-breeding is also another area of concern. It is abuse as it is not natural. It is doing something that is contrary to the natural course of nature, producing cubs simply for the sake of making money. Tigers cubs born in captivity generally have a higher mortality rate and cubs handled by humans have a higher chance of death.

It would appear that commercial interests have long overtaken these considerations. Such activities appear to have been developed almost entirely with tourism, rather than to benefit the needs of tigers. The abuse of our wildlife in theme parks, resorts and zoos has not only drawn local but worldwide attention. SAM would like to question the legality of these shows. Such shows only survive because of human indifference and ignorance to such acts which go against the animals natural behaviour.

The animal welfare problems at such places are severe and include poor accommodation, lack of appropriate environments, veterinary problems, and deliberate physical abuse to make them compliant for visiting tourists.

These places make no discernible contribution to tiger conservation and the captive environment does not in any way meet or approach the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA’s) minimum requirements. SAM urges the ministry to have a comprehensive investigation into such animal establishments and resorts to expose and put a stop to such malpractices.