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A plea for the Pandas

June 15, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Shenaaz Khan, via e-mail

China’s much publicised loaning of two Giant pandas to Malaysia is hardly an event to be received with rousing merriment. The exercise is in equal measure preposterous and superfluous and is unworthy of festive fireworks.

In an atmosphere of economic imbecility and political pandering, the Malaysian government has come up with the kind of inane idea that exemplifies its governing greatness. Their little reform agendas now include Giant pandas. Under the greedy guise of conservation, two Giant pandas are to bear the burden of bridging diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia.

How this is to be achieved is beyond baffling. But it yet again illustrates a blatant manifestation of Malaysia’s institutional pattern of exploiting animals to serve selfish human interests. To assume otherwise is grossly foolish.

Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Koh Tsu Koon has reportedly said that China’s gesture in lending a pair of pandas shows that it recognises Malaysia as a special country. Yes, Malaysia’s specialities include licensing countless zoos to abuse animals for human fortunes.

Malaysian zoos have for years abused and neglected their animals with complete legal immunity despite legislated codes of animal welfare clearly not being adhered to. Their registry of crimes include drugging tigers for photo taking sessions, forcing elephants to ride tricycles, cramping orangutans into runty cages and trafficking totally protected wildlife!

Zoos such as Taiping zoo, Danga Bay and A’Famosa, are fairly representative examples of these atrocious zoos and are in clear conflict of conservation. Nonetheless, the Malaysian government has habitually dedicated itself to ignoring and facilitating animal abuse as animal welfare and conservation have never been on the forefront of their political consciousness.

Hence, it is incredulous to imagine Malaysia being chosen for a conservation effort given its hideous track record. This whole panda loaning scheme has also made apparent the very deep pockets of the Malaysian government. While they feign financial frugality, they are ever ready to take on the colossal technical and architectural tasks necessary to house the pandas.

Malaysia’s decision to spend obscene amounts of money bringing in a non-native species for a decade long visit is further appalling given its complete and absolute disregard for its very own Malayan Sun bear. The Malayan sun bears are routinely orphaned and victimised by habitat loss from excessive logging, poaching for bear products and surging demand in the pet and zoo trade.

Amongst other conservation efforts, the 20 million ringgit could well be spent on saving the endangered Malayan Sun bear. Yet, the Malaysian government is not concerned in conserving them for they would serve no value to capital investments in China’s economic empire.

While I do not begrudge Malaysia the industrious opportunities China has to offer in trade and commerce, it is important to underscore here that China is the leading capital of animal abuse, illegal wildlife trade and wild meat consumption.

Across the world, elephant numbers are dwindling owing to China’s ruthless demand for ivory. China also remains the primary consumer of traditional Chinese medicine and wild meat, the two commodities driving the illegal wildlife trade and pushing many endangered species to near extinction.

And while China hands out pairs of pandas to various countries, their own horrific fur and bear bile farms kill, maim and brutalise bears every single day! Across China, bears are kept in cramped cages, their gall bladders implanted with metal catheters and their bodies clamped down with metal grilles to enable the extraction of their bile!

Their catalogue of abuses is endless! Therefore, like Stalin and Hitler advocating human rights, it is a complete travesty that the Malaysian and Chinese regimes should engage on conservation efforts given their respective reputations for animal cruelty.

Let us not be fooled by this farce! These pandas have been ripped from their homes, held hostage by their man masters and have now been pimped for profit! It is indeed a shameful day in Malaysian history as we have allowed pandas to be pawned for pungent political pursuits!


The writer is president of the Malaysian Animal Welfare Society


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