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Life for zoo animals in Malaysia could improve later this year when the government toughens up its conservation laws.
The new Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 includes heavier punishments for wildlife cruelty and zoos that operate without a license, poaching and other wildlife crimes.
Malaysia has around 40 zoos, many of which fail to meet basic animal welfare standards laid out in the South East Asia Zoo Association’s guidelines. The new law will empower the wildlife enforcement authorities to stop further zoos opening if they don’t meet minimum standards, sparing the suffering of many animals in future.
Chris Gee, WSPA Wildlife Manager, applauds Malaysia’s decision, adding that the proof of commitment to animal welfare will lie in the enforcement of the laws. “Those found breaking wildlife laws must be punished with penalties which fit the crime,” he said.
Over the years, WSPA has received worrying reports of poor animal welfare from tourists who have visited Malaysian zoos, and have worked to build the strength of local NGOs to tackle this issue.
WSPA member society ACRES and a coalition of Malaysian NGOs have worked consistently over the last two years to monitor conditions in zoos and present the evidence to decision makers. The Malaysian Zoo Association (MAZPA), of which 13 Malaysian zoos are members, has publicly stated that animal welfare should be a priority in Malaysia’s zoos. WSPA hopes the new Act will set a precedent to inspire other governments and zoo associations to work together to bring an end to the worst conditions for captive animals.
“Concern for animal welfare has never been higher in Malaysia. Local Malaysian NGOs, and the public they represent, have an important role to play in making sure the new laws are enforced to prevent animal suffering.,” said Chris Gee.
The new Act comes 18 months after Malaysia’s king, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, pledged his support for a Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare (UDAW). His signature on the UDAW petition joined those of several Malaysian government ministers and 8,000 members of the Malaysian public.