The Star Online, 26 December 2013
BY J. KUGAN
Animals falling victim to violence, abuse and neglect continue to make headlines in Malaysia. We look back at six of the 2013’s worst animal scandals.
Although Malaysians would rather forget the horrifying photos and reports of cruelty against animals that have become commonplace in our social media feeds, it’d be heartless to ignore the reality of what’s happening.
From the poisoning of endangered elephants to the inhumane killing of unwanted strays, the evidence is clear that Malaysians need to step up efforts to protect the well-being of our animal friends, lest we see more of these sickening cases of unchecked cruelty.
Warning: Some of the videos and pictures are very upsetting – we advise viewer discretion.
Pygmy elephants poisoned in Sabah
A baby elephant caressing its lifeless mother: That was the heart-tugging image that caused an international scandal in January when 14 pygmy elephants – 10 females and four males aged between four and 20 years – were found dead in Sabah’s Gunung Rare Forest Reserve. When news broke out that the endangered pachyderms had succumbed to poisoning, allegedly by workers in oil palm plantations bordering the reserve, it hit home hard.
How much of our natural fauna are we willing to sacrifice for profit? Despite rewards posted for information on the culprits, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know what really happened. Our only consolation is that Baby Joe, who had stayed beside his mother’s carcass for days before being found, is doing well.
Sun bear and stallion poisoned in Malacca
Barely a month after the elephant poisoning in Sabah, a 14-year-old female Malayan sun bear and Arabian stallion at Malacca Zoo and Night Safari fell victim to poisoning by an elderly businessman from Johor. CCTV footage from the Feb 17 incident showed the man in the zoo feeding the animals fruit that had been laced with toxin.
It could’ve been worse: poisoned fruits were also found in the chimpanzee and orang utan enclosures. What drove the man to poison these beautiful creatures? Apparently, it was out of resentment due to the fact he had previously owned a zoo that was shut down. His confiscated animals had been moved to Malacca Zoo where some later died due to mishandling.
Stray dogs violently killed
In late September, a gruesome video showing dogcatchers dragging and eventually strangling a stray dog was uploaded by Malaysian Independent Animal Rescue (MIAR) activist Puspa Rani to her YouTube account. Even though there had been other videos showing similar acts of council-related abuse of strays all over the country, this one touched a nerve and went viral, clocking up to more than 100,000 hits to date.
MIAR claims that the dogcatchers – in this instance, hired by the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) – disregard all the recommended protocols for the humane handling of strays. MPKj, on the other hand, denies any wrongdoing, claiming that MIAR’s allegations are baseless.
Despite the finger-pointing and denials, the video – almost seven minutes of pure torture – speaks for itself.
Kitten sealed in a jar by Johor youths
Two Malaysian youths from Johor Baru caused a Facebook uproar in September when they posted photos of themselves posing with a kitten they had put inside a sealed jar. The photos caused such serious consternation among cat lovers that Mark Soh, founder of the Malaysian Crime Awareness Campaign Facebook page, lodged a report to the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) against the offending duo.
Even after Ai Knowl claimed that the kitten is still alive and apologised for what he calls a silly joke, netizens were not satisfied. One of them said, "I cannot accept your 'sorry'. It's a wonder if he doesn't get death threats."
Until now, the duo have not been charged with anything.
Australians upset over mistreatment of goats
The ethical treatment of animals can sometimes be a touchy issue, especially across national and cultural boundaries. In May, animal rights group Animals Australia highlighted the issue of how Malaysians mistreat live Australian wild goats that had been exported to our country with a hidden camera footage.
Though Malaysians may find it hard to accept the fact that some of our cultural practices may be perceived as cruel, perhaps it’s high time we take another look at how we really treat animals in our daily lives.
Return of Anson Wong AKA “Lizard King”
In November, Al Jazeera reported that Anson Wong AKA the “Lizard King” is back in business. Notorious for being one of the world’s worst wildlife traffickers, Wong was last arrested in 2010 at KL International Airport when he attempted to smuggle 95 boa constrictors to Indonesia.
Although he was sentenced to five years in jail, he was freed in 2012 despite overwhelming protest from the public.
Wong’s licenses for legitimate wildlife trading has since been revoked but the Al Jazeera video report entitled “Return Of The Lizard King” claims that he and his wife have resumed their illicit business from their base in Penang.
Both Wong and the Malaysian authorities have yet to respond to the allegations made in the video report, but we know that old habits die hard, and while the Lizard King lives on, the real victims – exotic lizards, snakes and tortoises – continue to suffer ignominious ends.