FMT LETTER: From M Smith (NZ), via e-mail
Photos taken recently of the living conditions for Sun bears at three Malaysian zoos persist in alerting the world to the fact that captive animals in many facilities in Malaysia are still being deprived of even the most basic, necessary requirements to keep them active, stimulated and in good mental health.
Pictures taken at A’Famosa, Johor and, of course, Melaka zoo, show these nocturnal bears stuck in small iron cages at night when in the wild they would be out searching for food (Melaka), or trapped in an enclosure with no evidence of either natural enrichment such as rocks, trees and areas to forage in or even any man-made substitutes like tyres, climbing frames and water pools (A’Famosa) or imprisoned in a high-walled, concrete ‘graveyard’ with low wooden structures inadequate for their climbing needs and skills (Johor).
It is widely accepted that captive animals need surroundings that closely replicate their habitats in the wild. Sun bears at all these facilities, therefore, must have their surroundings vastly improved immediately.
The NRE has been informed for a year now about the zero welfare standards at Melaka zoo, but little has changed and all three establishments seem unwilling to even contemplate giving the bears they are responsible for a decent environment to live in despite being offered help and advice from experts in bear care. Will any of them be prosecuted once the Wildlife Conservation Act eventually comes into force?
Shamefully, like confined orangutans enduring similar hardships all over Malaysia, Sun bears are native to the country. These and many other animals have sacrificied their freedom and natural behaviours in the name of profit. I wonder when, if ever, the Malaysian government will start to care about its many suffering zoo animals and, as a mark of compassion and respect for them, finally make their lives worth living?