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Text by Ng Wai Pak
Recently a friend and supporter of BSBCC went to visit the Victory Mini Zoo Farm in Papart, Kudat in the Northern Region of Borneo, and he was shocked by what he found. Apparently the Zoo was advertising that they had a Panda Bear but instead it was 2 Malayan Sun Bears, which are Totally Protected under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment. The rationale for incorrectly identifying the bears is unclear—they may be using the name Panda to attract visitors or they could be mistaken about the type of Bear that they are housing. Either way, this error is misleading and embarrassing and unfortunately indicates that the Zoo management know very little about the wildlife that they are responsible for, which is a scary indicator of the level of treatment that the animals are receiving.
This gaffe also highlights the general lack of education that people have about the Malayan Sun Bear, and with this type of misinformation, it is no wonder that most people do not know that Malaysia has a bear species. This example proves that the local Malaysian community lacks coherent and correct information regarding wildlife in the region and would benefit substantially from increased environmental education and awareness. Malaysia is urgently in need of a complete environmental education system that would help promote local appreciation of our natural resources, unique wildlife species and our fragile natural habitat.
Perhaps the first step in addressing this issue would be for the government to implement and enforce strict guidelines on the Mini Zoos in the country, to ensure that they are utilizing best practices in caring for the animals and that the conditions provided for wildlife are appropriate. In conjunction with this, the government also has the opportunity to promote and fund Wildlife Centres that focus on awareness and education of local and international visitors in order to increase the impact that these Centres have. It is the time for the people and government of Malaysia to address the treatment of animals in Zoos and captivity (both legal and illegal) and begin to support a more sustainable and long-term model of animal care and welfare.