Gifting Johor Zoo elephants a dreadful idea

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By Jennifer Yeap

Johor Zoo is no stranger to controversy. Back in 2010 news channel Al Jazeera exposed the zoo for selling wildlife and only one year later animal activists bared the zoo once again for its abuse of two baby elephants. After public outrage around the world as far as the UK, both elephants along with other wildlife including tigers and orangutans were confiscated from the zoo.

Over the years Malaysian Friends of the Animals (MFOTA) and other NGOs have made numerous complaints about the sad state of wildlife at Johor Zoo and disappointingly nothing much has changed. A recent visit by our investigators showed that several enclosures have been enlarged to comply with the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010. However, the enlarged enclosures are mostly concrete and without much resemblance to wild surroundings.

Most animals are still in the same pitiful state since years ago. Lions are still living in all-concrete enclosures, chimpanzees look bored as they walk around in circles waiting to be fed junk food by zoo visitors, and exotic birds are still kept in tiny cages. Only a handful of animals live in at best decent vivariums/enclosures.

During our visit to the zoo it was revealed that the management is now preparing to receive elephants. Night stalls have been constructed to receive the elephants while the enclosure is as tiny as it has always been. Any Malaysian who knows a little about elephants will realise the zoo is not fit to provide the best treatment for elephants.

Since our first visit several years ago we have never seen enrichment given to animals at the zoo and there are barely any staff around looking out for errant visitors feeding junk food to the animals and as a result every time we visit Johor Zoo, we see animals being fed by visitors. Under zoo guidelines produced by the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment, zoos need to provide enrichment to all its animals.

The zoo charges a meagre fee of RM2 for entrance. It is plain for anyone to see the zoo has been bleeding money over the years and humane treatment of its animals is not the priority.

Considering the poor state of animals currently at the zoo and its abuse of elephants in the past, no animals should be sent to the zoo, let alone elephants. Instead of spending money on elephants, the zoo should urgently improve the welfare of existing animals there.

MFOTA asks PERHILITAN, the wildlife department, to not send elephants to Johor Zoo. By doing so, the elephants will be doomed to a life of misery and possible abuse and eventually lead to activists again campaigning for them to be confiscated. In fact Johor Zoo should be shut down and all animals re-homed.

Jennifer Yeap represents Friends of the Animals.

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