GOMBAK: After 56 years of serving Malaysians, a lack of funds and the loss of government support is holding back Zoo Negara from making improvements to its facilities.
“We have no problem with running the zoo on a daily basis, to pay staff salaries to our staff and manage the animals that we keep in here. We can still bear the costs out of visitors’ fees,” said Zoo Negara’s deputy president, Rosly @ Rahmat Ahmat Lana.
“But it is just impossible to upgrade the zoo as it will cost us a lot of money, which we don’t have.”
Refurbishment and other changes would be necessary so that people would continue to be attracted to make visits to the zoo, which is run by the Malaysian Zoological Society.
The zoo’s financial problems were exacerbated by the loss of five-year federal grants of RM5 million, which had ended in 2004.
However, he admitted that the money was not enough. “The zoo is 56 years old now, it requires many repairs here and there. We have plans to renew the facilities, to increase the use of glass in place of bars and cages, as practised by zoos in other countries.
“But it is not cheap to do and we don’t have enough money for that,” he said.
Rosly rebuffed talk that Zoo Negara had lost its allure and had suffered a drop in visitor numbers.
“We have been reaching our daily and weekly targets. We aim for about 400,000 to 500,000 visitors over a year, and for this year we have already received about 200,000 visitors.”
He said most visitors came during weekends. Visitors from Arab nations topped the list at about 20% while the lowest national figure was for visitors from China, because that country had its own zoo, and also featured the Chinese national animal, the giant panda.
In 2014, when China presented Malaysia with two giants pandas, Zoo Negara had achieved a record number of visitors, amounting to almost 800,000. Most of them came within the first six months because of the publicity.
“We have three pandas at the moment. The child is two years old and according to our agreement with China we will have to send it back to them after it is two years old. We will see from there.”
Rosly hoped more Malaysians would visit the zoo. He said the entrance fee was affordable and not really expensive compared with other zoos, at RM45 for an adult ticket.
“I don’t think it is expensive, considering that we have many animals inside. And our price is far less than the zoo in Singapore.”
Most people would need at least three hours to complete the circuit of the zoo. “We also have our own show, which 95% of our visitors attend.”