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Call for better zoo etiquette

 | November 21, 2012

Zoos exist not merely to entertain, says an animal welfare group.

KUALA LUMPUR: The next time you take your children to the zoo, make sure they don’t make too much noise. It will unsettle the animals and upset members of myZoo, a coalition of animal welfare bodies.

“We have to point out that animals have feelings” and the screams of children could agitate them, said Sharmini Paramasivam, a myZoo representative.

She was in the myZoo delegation that had a roundtable discussion today with representatives of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan). The discussion centred on animal welfare in Malaysian zoos.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, she said the Malaysian public needed to be educated about zoos —that they are not just places of entertainment, but also of animal conservation.

The meeting with Perhilitan discussed the Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoos) Regulations 2012, a law that was gazetted last Feb 1. It gives Perhilitan more bite in going after zoos and wildlife parks that are negligent in their job of caring for animals. It covers, among other things, health care, animal enclosure spaces and wildlife show guidelines.

MyZoo welcomed the new regulations, but said better enforcement was needed. Its delegation said zoos, NGOs and government agencies needed to work together to improve the situation.

MyZoo advisor and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) academic Sumita Sugnaseelan said a lot of reports about animal attacks were exaggerated.

“If a visitor crosses an enclosure’s barrier, do you blame the animal for reacting?” she asked.

She added that parents needed to obey cautionary signs at the zoos lest their children mimic them. “If there is a sign that says don’t feed the animals, and the parents do it, the children might emulate that,” she said.

Perhilitan has agreed to let myZoo representatives join the agency’s zoo audit team, which would routinely inspect Malaysia’s zoos.


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