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By Louis Ng

Addressing zoo animal welfare concerns in M'sia

The new Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoo) Regulations 2012 is a big step in the right direction, providing hope for hundreds of animals in Malaysia's zoos and placing Malaysia at the forefront of tackling zoo animal welfare concerns.

Representatives from Malaysian and International organisations, Perlihitan and university lecturers met yesterday for a roundtable discussion on addressing Zoo Animal Welfare in Malaysia, hosted by myZOO.

While the new regulations are widely acknowledged to be the best in Southeast Asia in terms of ensuring high welfare standards, participants of the roundtable discussions called for more effective enforcement of the regulations.

The task ahead is challenging. With over 30 zoos in Peninsular Malaysia, many of which still fail to meet the new regulations, it will take concerted effort and co-operation between the zoos, zoo associations, NGOs, local universities and the government to improve the welfare of zoo animals.

"We are urging the state and/or federal governments to provide assistance to help committed zoos improve the welfare of animals in their care. We also hope that corporations will sponsor or donate generously towards zoo animal welfare programmes.

"MyZOO will be establishing partnerships with local zoos to improve animal welfare, and for greater transparency we will take up the offer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to be part of the zoo audit team which will include members from myZOO and the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (MAZPA)" said Dr Sharmini Paramasivam, myZOO spokesperson.

To empower members of the public, myZOO will be establishing a new Facebook page to provide advice about zoo animal welfare issues and act as a channel for complaints on these issues.

MyZOO is also calling for the implementation of continuous education programmes for animal caregivers in zoos, to improve expertise in animal husbandry and enrichment and encourage the sharing of research findings on zoo animal welfare.

We believe it will take a while to get there, but with the new regulations in place and with zoos, NGOs and government agencies working together to ensure Malaysia's zoos meet them, Malaysia could soon be leading the way in zoo animal welfare standards in the region and beyond.

The roundtable discussion was attended by representatives from Malaysian organisations: APE Malaysia, Malaysian Nature Society, Noah's Ark Ipoh, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, SPCA Penang, SPCA Selangor; PERHILITAN; Dr Reuben Sharma and Dr Sumita Sugnaseelan from Universiti Putra Malaysia together with International organisation, Acres.

MyZOO is a coalition of NGOs dedicated to improving zoo animal welfare in Malaysia. It comprises Green Wings, Malaysian Animal Welfare Society, Noah's Ark Ipoh, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, SPCA Johor, SPCA Penang and SPCA Selangor, with international NGOs Acres and WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) playing advisory roles.