Zoos in Malaysia still breaking the law


By Sean Whyte

Back in April 2012 the government made a big thing out of the launch of its new Wildlife Conservation Act first conceived in 2010.

In 2010 a new law was deemed necessary. It took two years of debate before the new Act became law – on paper.

Despite everyone in the Malaysian zoo industry knowing change was coming, despite most zoos still being decrepit and law-breaking, Perhilitan agreed to a six-month extension period to allow zoos to become compliant. The fact that many zoo animals were suffering from appalling neglect, no one in government cared.

Now, nearly four years later, what has changed? Very little. In most zoos, nothing.

  • Animals are still held in cages so small and inappropriate, they are in breach of the law.
  • Employing a full-time veterinarian is a legal requirement. Most zoos still don’t.
  • Providing nutritious food to birds and animals is also a legal requirement that is mostly still ignored.

The list of non-compliance is endless.

Perhilitan has not stepped up enforcement. Not that anyone really expected this department to do anything more than suck up to its friends in the zoo industry.

The fact that Perhilitan chose not to enforce the law, must surely be a reflection of its senior management’s relaxed (horizontal) attitude towards (a) criminal activity (b) animal welfare. It’s never been any different, has it?

It’s now May 2016, and still most zoos in Malaysia do as they please regardless of animal cruelty and breaking the law. They know they have nothing to fear from Perhilitan, don’t they?

It’s much the same with illegal wildlife traders – we all know the trade is rampant and Perhilitan is reluctant to go after criminals.

What does this tell us about Malaysia’s zoos, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and Perhilitan?

Sean Whyte is CEO of Nature Alert.

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