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Government officials have begun to remove wild animals suffering some of the most appalling captive conditions in Malaysia from Saleng Zoo in Johor. The Malaysian government has taken action and is shutting down the zoo, situated 300 km south of Kuala Lumpur, which has repeatedly failed to meet basic animal welfare standards recently introduced into law.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which last year helped found the myZOO coalition, a group of NGOs working to eradicate the worst conditions for zoo animals in Malaysia, welcomed the move. WSPA Wildlife Programme Manager Chris Gee said: “WSPA welcomes tough action being taken by the Malaysian government against zoos that do not care for their animals properly. This zoo failed to meet national, regional and international welfare standards on many counts, and consistently also failed to contribute to conservation or education.
The Malaysian Wildlife and National Parks Department (PERHILITAN) entered the zoo on Monday, in a confiscation operation expected to last over a week. The zoo has around 60 animals including bears, big cats, snakes and crocodiles, and had been the subject of numerous complaints to authorities. The zoo’s permit to operate has also been revoked. Animals are reported to be being steadily removed and taken to another zoo with higher animal welfare standards, Malacca Zoo and a protected area, Paya Indah Wetlands.
Prior to the action by PERHILITAN, myZOO had recently written to the government outlining that Saleng Zoo had consistently failed to meet even basic minimal welfare standards for the animals in its care, and over the past few years had witnessed evidence of gross neglect and animal suffering there. It said that improving facilities would be hard given the large number of animals and the lack of space to expand sufficiently to allow appropriate conditions, and recommended closure of the facility.
Two baby Macaques in their cage
The action was possible thanks to the introduction of Malaysia’s first zoo welfare law one year ago, which in itself followed a pledge by the Malay head of state Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin in 2008 to encourage better welfare for all Malaysia’s animals by signing WSPA’s campaign for a Universal Declaration of Animal Welfare (UDAW). The UDAW is a global WSPA campaign, with over 2 million signatories, including national governments, to promote animal welfare standards.
Chris: “This is a good first step but there are many more animals in substandard conditions in zoos across Malaysia – and the world - that also need urgent help, WSPA thanks the dedicated local NGOs, especially the myZOO coalition and Malaysian public for raising zoo animal welfare concerns with the government.”
Meanwhile, five crocodiles confiscated from Saleng Zoo have already been released into Paya Indah Wetlands, and have shown no stress in their new surroundings, according to PERHILITAN staff.
WSPA encourages any supporter with concerns over welfare at a particular zoo to approach the zoo itself, the national zoological association or, where unavailable, the national tourist board.