Sabah’s wildlife park needs more funding, says minister

State tourism, culture and environment minister Christina Liew being briefed about the operations of the wildlife park by Tuuga (right).

KOTA KINABALU: The state tourism, culture and environment ministry will look at ways to better manage the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park animal sanctuary near here and ensure the animals within the park are better taken care of.

Speaking after a spot check following a FMT report on the pitiful condition of the animals in the park, minister Christina Liew said the park needed more funds to improve facilities.

“We cannot run the park as it is because new animals will keep coming in. Their needs must be addressed also. The problem is the budget allocated does not include the needs of new animals.

“The budget is drawn according to the previous year’s needs,” she said.

Liew said she was quite happy with the condition of the animals and was satisfied with the level of cleanliness.

During the visit, Liew was briefed by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) director Augustine Tuuga, who told her about the elephant enclosure which is currently under renovation.

The project has taken more than two months and is expected to finally be completed next month.

The elephants are being kept chained in the meantime and kept in the shade. They are also given proper care by park rangers, Liew said.

Visitors wanting to see the Borneo pygmy elephants will have to be satisfied with only seeing Baby Joe, the orphaned pygmy elephant.

It shot to fame after photos of it went viral in 2013. The photos showed the baby elephant trying to revive its mother, which was one of 14 pygmy elephants that died of poisoning.

Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia (Foto) director Upreshpal Singh had told FMT the organisation had received several photos showing the elephants at the Lok Kawi wildlife park kept in chains and unable to roam freely.

He said the cages for sun bears and pythons were also filthy, with their waste left on the hard cement floor.

He added that the zoo, managed by the SWD, should stop breeding animals immediately as a state official had stated it was not making profits.

As such, the NGO urged the state government to address the terrible conditions endured by the animals.

Liew said the park would stay in Lok Kawi for the time being as there was no need for it to move to a bigger area in Sugut, Penampang.

“This is one of the biggest parks in the Southeast Asia region, occupying 112ha. As far as I am concerned, this place is good enough and I do not see the need to move. The only thing needed is to further improve conditions.”

Liew also dismissed allegations that the animals in the park are being left to starve. In fact, she said some of the animals might need to be put on a diet because of their unhealthy weight gain.

According to her, the park needs RM4.2 million annually to feed the animals and a further RM2.5 million for maintenance.

Clogged drains and damaged fences incur extra expenses.

“Money will never be enough but we will do what we can. The park collects about RM1.5 million per year in entrance fees on average.

“This is obviously not enough to cover expenses but the benefits to the public far outweigh the expenses,” she said.

 

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