Wildlife authorities not transparent about orangutans at Sepilok, but asks the public to donate to the state-owned rehab centre

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The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) is appealing the public to donate to the controversial state-owned Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. However, it will not show transparency about the future six Sepilok orangutans and has not informed if investigations were carried out to determine what happened to the mothers of two orphaned infant orangutans now at the centre.

The SWD appears to have set up the Sepilok Orangutan Trust Fund. In a 15 November post on the department’s education unit Facebook page, details were provided on how the public can donate to the centre: to pay for the care of orangutans at the SORC.

 

Screenshot of the SWD run Facebook page requesting donations for the SORC. Post available here

Friends of the Orangutans have previously revealed that tourism at the SORC does not abide by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) great ape tourism guidelines. As our article explains, tourism should not take place at the SORC, and we have narrated the adverse effects of tourism on orangutans at the centre.

For months the SWD has remained silent about welfare concerns for six orangutans at the SORC; apes whose futures are uncertain and legitimate questions about their ability to live independently in a forest have been raised. The six orangutans are humanised apes and humanisation, which is the over-habituation and overdependency on humans, may fail an orangutan’s successful return to forest life and doom the apes to a life of captivity.

Hands-on paid volunteering practice, which took place at the SORC for over 15 years until early 2020, and unsustainable orangutan tourism increased the risk of humanisation among orangutans at the SORC, putting the apes’ future in jeopardy.

In September, we asked the SWD if it conducted investigations to determine the fate of the mothers of a couple of orphaned orangutan infants. The department has yet to answer, and yet it also allows public donations to be collected for the two infants.

Even more worrying, we recently questioned if an orangutan was needlessly euthanised at the SORC. The SWD has not confirmed or denied the allegation.

Now, the SWD, which previously sanctioned the supply of orphaned infant orangutans to a luxury hotel in Sabah on the pretence of rehabilitation, is requesting donations for the SORC.

It is worth remembering that distinguished and ethical orangutan rehabilitation centres in Indonesia are NGO-run and do not receive financial support from the Indonesian government. Is the SWD asking for donations because the Sabah state government is not able to adequately fund the SORC, a centre where for years orangutans have been used to increase profits for the state?

 

Further reading:

When profits rule – Sepilok orangutan release disaster

Sepilok orangutan tourism – here’s what’s wrong

General public finally barred from involvement with orangutan rehab at Sepilok

Perilous orangutan tourism resumes at Sepilok amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Time for change at Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre

SWD’s dubious plan to release two orphaned Sepilok orangutans

Asia for Animals Coalition asks Melaka Zoo to cancel orangutan transfer

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Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO) had previously called on Datuk Zurinah Pawanteh, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) to cancel the impending transfer of three orangutans to Melaka Zoo, a zoo two hours south of Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

We had also explained in our article not only that Melaka Zoo should not receive the orangutans, but the zoo should not be in possession of any great ape species.

Almost 20 animal-based organisations worldwide have now joined FOTO in asking for the transfer of orangutans to Melaka Zoo be cancelled.

On 13 November, the Asia for Animals Coalition sent a letter to the director of Melaka, Zanariah Khamis, to urge the zoo to cancel the transfer. The letter, co-signed by 19 esteemed NGOs including Four Paws, Humane Society International and Animals Asia, is available here.

Like FOTO, the Coalition also believes that Melaka Zoo should not be in possession of any great ape species.

A copy of the letter was sent to Datuk Zurinah and Dato’ Kadir Abu Hashim, Director-General of PERHILITAN, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department.

The Coalition also asked Ms Zanariah to allow Melaka Zoo’s lone orangutan, Mardia, to be transferred to the Matang Wildlife Centre and Coco, the only chimpanzee at the zoo, to Singapore Zoo, the birthplace of the chimp.

In a 20 November email to FOTO, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, a Sarawak state government entity, informed us that the Matang Wildlife Centre is unable to accommodate Mardia due to lack of capacity at the sanctuary.

FOTO urges PERHILITAN to transfer Mardia to a different zoo that has orangutans, one that is guaranteed to meet her needs. Breeding must be avoided.

Singapore Zoo has not informed if it can and will offer Coco a new lease of life. Tweet to Singapore Zoo to ask it to stop Coco’s suffering. CLICK HERE to tweet now.

Tweet also to PERHILITAN to ask the department to cancel the transfer of orangutans to Melaka Zoo, and to send Mardia to a zoo that can meet her needs. CLICK HERE to tweet to PERHILITAN now.

FOTO condemns Taiping Zoo’s breeding of orangutans

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Published 10 November 2020. Main image: Wasabi (L) and Katarina with their newborn infants
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In December 2019, Katarina, a 16-year-old orangutan, gave birth at the Taiping Zoo & Night Safari. Two months later, 18-year-old Wasabi also produced an offspring at the zoo. Previously, Wasabi gave birth to an offspring in December 2017. The infant died before reaching one year old.

We contacted Taiping Zoo in September to ask about its purpose for breeding orangutans. In its response, the zoo stated that its reason for breeding the apes is to maintain a viable captive population in case a need to reintroduce them into the wild arises.

Captive breeding of orangutans is not conservation. Tweet to PERHILITAN, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife dept., to ask them to stop Malaysia zoos breeding orangutans. CLICK HERE to tweet now.

Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO) believes zoos want exotic animals such as orangutans, chimpanzees and tigers – and especially cute newborns – to increase visitor numbers. In other words, orangutan breeding in captivity is about profits.

In mid-September, the president of the Melaka Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council (MPHTJ) stated that Melaka Zoo was attempting to acquire more orangutans to increase visitor numbers.

On average, wild-born orangutans spend around seven to eight years with their mothers. The first few years of life are crucial as infant orangutans are taught a wide range of skills on forest survival such as nest-building, avoiding predators, foraging and integration into a wild orangutan population. The natural conditions in a forest are near-impossible to replicate in a zoo. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicated in its guidelines for the wild reintroduction of great apes that it is a significant challenge to rehabilitate and release rescued wild-born infant orangutans that had not lived in the wild with their mothers for at least a year. Such is the importance of mother-infant interactions in the wild.

Orangutans in zoos may also be too habituated to humans; over-habituation to humans can cause forest-dwelling orangutans to be more susceptible to poachers and hunters. Additionally, captive-born and bred orangutans may not be as resistant to diseases as wild orangutans.

Breeding orangutans in captivity with the aim of releasing them into a forest is currently not common practice in the area orangutan conservation. The IUCN does not include any orangutan species in its list of wildlife species for which captive breeding has been recommended as a conservation action.

Katarina’s origins are unknown, but she will remain captive for life. Both Wasabi, who was born at Taiping Zoo, and the two newborn infants will remain in captivity for life, and die without ever knowing what a rainforest is.

According to an article by two wildlife experts, orangutans do not and cannot thrive in zoos. Orangutans are highly intelligent and complex animals, and it can be a challenge to meet their needs in captivity. Till this day FOTO continues to reveal substandard living conditions of orangutans in Malaysian zoos.

In September we revealed a distressing image of Wasabi with her new infant inside a dilapidated cage at the Taiping Zoo. The cage is off-limits to zoo visitors; they are not allowed to see where the zoo orangutans are kept when they’re not in the outdoor enclosure.

Image: Wasabi with her newborn infant at Taiping Zoo

Legitimate ape sanctuaries that care for rescued orangutans do their best to avoid animals in their care from breeding. According to the Center for Great Apes, a sanctuary caring for unreleasable orangutans and chimpanzees, it is irresponsible to intentionally breed great apes and add more individuals to a life of captivity when there are already so many in need of rescue.

Before arriving at Taiping Zoo, Katarina was kept alone in a dilapidated zoo in Kuala Lipis. Six years ago, FOTO campaigned for her to be sent to a sanctuary, the Matang Wildlife Centre, near Kuching, Sarawak. The sanctuary does not breed orangutans.

However, PERHILITAN, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department, instead sent Katarina to Taiping Zoo. We only found out about Katarina’s transfer to Taiping Zoo through media publications.

Instead of breeding orangutans in captivity resources would be better spent on genuine orangutan conservation efforts, such as protecting and connecting the habitats of wild orangutans, addressing human-orangutan conflict and tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Support from the general public to fight deforestation is also crucial to secure the future of dwindling wildlife species.

What can you do today? Ask PERHILITAN, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department, to stop the breeding of orangutans in zoos. CLICK HERE to tweet to PERHILITAN now. If you are not from Malaysia, please send contents from this article to your local elected officials and zoos and demand the same of them.

Will Singapore Zoo stop Coco the chimp’s suffering?

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Published 4 November 2020

Coco, the chimpanzee, was born at Singapore Zoo and has been kept alone in a small enclosure at Melaka Zoo for almost ten years. We asked Singapore Zoo if it will accept her, but the zoo is yet to inform us if it will take responsibility and take Coco back to the zoo, which labels itself as the “World’s Best Rainforest Zoo”.

CLICK HERE to tweet to Singapore Zoo to ask them to transfer Coco to the zoo. You can also write to Singapore Zoo – details at the bottom of this page.

We previously revealed that an accredited chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa was ready to receive Coco, and her transfer would have come at no cost to Melaka Zoo. Disappointingly, the zoo management rejected our proposals. Our first proposal was sent to the zoo in November 2018.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Coco cannot be sent to the sanctuary.

In late September we asked Dr Luis Carlos Neves, Director of Zoology at Singapore Zoo if the zoo can accept Coco. Dr Neves informed us on 28 September that he had contacted the Malaysian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (MAZPA) to “inform them about the concerns” we raised. We have not heard from Dr Neves or the Singapore Zoo management since.

The president of MAZPA, Dr Kevin Lazarus, is the director Taiping Zoo. In January 2019, Zanariah Khamis, the Melaka Zoo director, informed us that the zoo had agreed to send Coco to Taiping Zoo. Coco is still at Melaka Zoo.

 

Left: Coco’s deplorable night den at Melaka Zoo (July 2018 image). Right: Her outdoor enclosure

Singapore Zoo needlessly breeds chimpanzees, and almost 20 years ago it was exposed for sending surplus chimpanzees to inferior zoos outside Singapore. But its management has the moral obligation to stop Coco’s suffering and relocate her Singapore Zoo as soon as practically possible. Coco should be given the best of care and treatment for the rest of her life at the zoo, and it must not breed her.

Singapore Zoo, a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), is owned by Mandai Park Holdings, which is in turn wholly owned by Temasek Holdings, an investment company of the Singapore government.

How can you help Coco? See below.

  • Tweet. We have prepared a tweet for you send now. Simply CLICK HERE to tweet.
  • Leave a polite comment on the Facebook of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). The WRS manages Singapore Zoo.
  • Write to Dr Neves. If you do not have time to draft an email, copy contents from this article.

       luis.carlos@wrs.com.sg

CC your email to:

enquiry@wrs.com.sg
enquiry@mandai.com

PERHILITAN must cancel impending transfer of orangutans to Melaka Zoo

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Published 3 November 2020. Updated 27 November. Main image: Mardia the orangutan at Melaka Zoo

Melaka Zoo has one orangutan and wants more. However, the zoo shouldn’t get any. CLICK HERE to ask the Peninsular Malaysian wildlife department to cancel the impending transfer of orangutans to Melaka Zoo, and to transfer Mardia, the lone orangutan at Melaka Zoo to a different zoo.

According to a 16 September news article, Melaka Zoo will receive “three new products, including a total of three new orangutans from the A’Famosa Resort zoo and the Bukit Merah [Orangutan Island].

Two days later Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO) wrote to Datuk Zurinah Pawanteh, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA), to object the transfer of orangutans to the zoo.

However, following response from PERHILITAN, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department, FOTO informed the department on 29 September that before Melaka Zoo is allowed to import more orangutans, the zoo would first need to agree to several conditions, including completing an improved orangutan enclosure and the prohibition of breeding. Click here to see the prerequisites in full. 

The quality of the orangutan enclosure at Melaka Zoo is inadmissible and deplorable; Malaysia is one of only two countries in the world home to the critically endangered orangutan species. The enclosure has virtually been unchanged for over five years.

                             Orangutan enclosure at Melaka Zoo                                                               Orangutan enclosure at an international zoo

What captive orangutans need are elevated platforms connected by robust horizontal ropes to allow them to mimic some of the natural behaviours of wild orangutans, and enable them to exercise to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing.

The Melaka Zoo orangutan enclosure also lacks privacy barriers, another essential feature for captive orangutans to rest out of the sight of zoo visitors and other apes when they choose to do so – important to reduce the apes’ stress in captivity.

Based on our investigations at the zoo, Mardia, whose offspring Icha died at the zoo in 2019 at age 11, is mostly seen on the ground or in a hammock, looking bored and listless.

Orangutans are arboreal animals, and wild orangutans spend most of their lives in trees. Arboreal locomotion, the ability to travel off the ground is a vital element for captive orangutans. According to the captive orangutan management guidelines by esteemed orangutan expert Leif Cocks:

 

‘The most important aspect of the captive physical environment for orang utans is the amount of arboreal space available for both rest and locomotion (Maple 1979; Maple and Stine 1982; Jones 1982). Horizontal arboreal pathways and nesting/resting platforms are the main elements of the natural physical environment (Jones 1982). The lack of opportunity for arboreal locomotion promotes lethargy and contributes to obesity (Maple 1980). The combination of lethargy and living on the ground causes health hazards.’

 

On 6 November we wrote to Datuk Zurinah again to express our belief that the orangutan enclosure at Melaka Zoo does not meet the following zoo regulations and standards:

Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoo) Regulations 2012
6 (2) The enclosure referred to in subregulation (1) shall have a design appropriate to the natural behaviour and basic needs of the wildlife

Garis Panduan Standard Zoo

1.26 Hidupan liar hendaklah diberi ruang yang mencukupi dan furniture yang bersesuaian untuk membolehkan hidupan liar menunjukkan perilaku semula jadi (Wildlife should be given adequate space and appropriate furniture to allow wildlife to exhibit natural behaviour)

1.43.45 Kawasan kurungan hendaklah memenuhi keperluan fisiologi dan psikologi spesies tersebut (The enclosure area should meet the physiological and psychological needs of the species)

 

We have previously revealed concerns for Mardia’s weight, and recently to PERHILITAN. She is visibly obese in this 2019 video, involving zoo visitors freely tossing food at her.

On 15 October, we asked the Melaka Zoo to inform us by 28 October if it will agree to our prerequisites. Both PERHILITAN and Melaka Zoo have not notified us if the latter has agreed.

FOTO made the conditions in the best interest of orangutans, including to secure their welfare at Melaka Zoo. It doesn’t appear that the zoo will adopt them, and thus PERHILITAN should cancel the impending transfer of orangutans to the zoo.

In our previous article about Melaka Zoo, we revealed how its current management, installed in late 2018, had denied its lone chimpanzee an opportunity to be retired at an accredited chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa.

Melaka Zoo wants more orangutans to increase visitor numbers. This may indicate that the zoo’s desire to acquire additional orangutans is to increase profits. However, refusal to show compassion to its chimp and the apparent rejection of our demands suggest that the zoo places its interests above the welfare of its animals. Melaka Zoo should not keep any great ape species.

Friends of the Orangutans had previously asked the Sarawak Forestry Corporation if it could accept Mardia to place her at the Matang Wildlife Centre, a sanctuary which doesn’t breed orangutans in their care. We were recently informed by the SFC that there isn’t sufficient capacity for Mardia at the sanctuary. Mardia should be sent to the next most appropriate zoo in Peninsular Malaysia, one that can meet her needs. Breeding must be avoided.

What can you do today? Tweet to PERHILITAN to ask that it cancels the transfer of orangutans to Melaka Zoo, and transfer Mardia. CLICK HERE to tweet now.

You can also write to PERHILITAN. Use the email addresses below.

kadir@wildlife.gov.my
Dato’ Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim
Director, PERHILITAN (Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department)

Add these emails in the CC list:
azhar@wildlife.gov.my
shamsul.anuar@ketsa.gov.my

 

Friends of the Orangutans is opposed to the breeding of orangutans in captivity, and of great apes in general. Breeding these highly intelligent animals to only keep them captive for life is not conservation, and it is also unethical. Instead of breeding orangutans in captivity resources would be better spent on genuine orangutan conservation efforts, such as protecting and connecting the habitats of wild orangutans, addressing human-orangutan conflict and tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

Why won’t PERHILITAN prosecute Zoo Negara?

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Published 30 October 2020

In May this year, Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO) exposed a dark side to Zoo Negara. Unbeknownst to the Malaysian public, the zoo had been keeping most of its chimpanzees and Sumatran orangutans in indoor dens so small that its size was not compliant with the 2013 Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoo) (Amendment) Regulations. 

On 22 January FOTO provided several photos of Zoo Negara chimps and Sumatran orangutans in their indoor dens to PERHILITAN, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department, and we asked if the size of the dens was compliant with zoo regulations. 

On 1 April we received the department’s feedback through the Malaysian Public Complaints Bureau (PCB). A complaint was lodged with the PCB as PERHILITAN did not respond to our follow-up email about this matter.

In its response, PERHILITAN confirmed that the size of 37 of 38 indoor dens, used to keep the chimps and Sumatran orangutans outside Zoo Negara’s visiting hours, was not compliant with the amended 2013 zoo regulations.

 

Image: two chimpanzees and a Sumatran orangutan in non-compliant indoor dens at Zoo Negara

Based on a 5 October email from the department, it appears that Zoo Negara has taken corrective measures to ensure its ten chimpanzees and Sumatran orangutans are now kept in dens which size comply with zoo regulations. 

However, despite Zoo Negara’s remedial action, we had already established that it was not compliant seven years after the 2013 Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoo) (Amendment) Regulations took effect.

As there were no signs Zoo Negara would be prosecuted, FOTO wrote to Datuk Zurinah Pawanteh, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) to inform her of PERHILITAN’s apparent reluctance to uphold the law.

More than five months after we revealed Zoo Negara’s non-compliance, PERHILITAN has not informed the public if punitive action will be taken against the zoo.

In 2012, a former ministry chief indicated that zoos were given six months to comply with the then-new zoo regulations, which we believe is the 2012 Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoo) Regulations, the principal zoo regulation in Peninsular Malaysia, or face closure. The 2012 regulations also specify the minimum indoor den sizes for zoo animals. 

PERHILITAN might have given zoos more time to comply with both the 2012 and the amended 2013 regulations, but it’s undoubtedly not seven years.

We have also demanded Zoo Negara to stop the breeding of its chimps and orangutans. Captive breeding of chimps and orangutans is not conservation and intentional breeding of these animals to only keep them captive for life is unethical. Genuine conservation initiatives involve activities such as protecting the apes’ habitat. Research has shown that even under the best conditions, captive chimps display signs of compromised mental health.

 

PERHILITAN zoo audits

In June, we had asked PERHILITAN if the department was aware of Zoo Negara’s non-compliance before the department investigated the zoo after our enquiry was made. PERHILITAN has not answered this question. The department does conduct annual zoo audits, and its 2018 annual report articulates:

An annual audit is conducted to ensure that every Zoo and Permanent Exhibit premises are always in compliance with the requirements of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 [Act 716] and its subsidiary regulations.” 

As Zoo Negara appeared to have only acted on its non-compliance after being exposed, either PERHILITAN is incompetent at zoo audits, or the department turned a blind eye to Zoo Negara’s non-compliance until FOTO’s enquiry about the size of the dens early this year.

Is the size of all indoor dens and cages at Zoo Negara and zoos across the peninsular compliant with zoo regulations?

 

Was an orangutan needlessly euthanised at Sepilok?

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Friends of the Orangutans have been informed of an alleged case of euthanasia of an orangutan at the popular Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC), in the East Malaysian state of Sabah. The centre is owned by the Sabah state government and managed by the state government’s wildlife agency, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).

Based on details made available to us, the orangutan suffered electrocution at the SORC and, as a result, suffered severe injuries. The orangutan was placed in a cage at the centre and was able to survive, but was later euthanised. Consequently, it appears that the euthanasia was not necessary. 

On 14 October, through an email, we invited the SWD to comment on and verify these allegations but did not receive a response. 

We had also asked the department these details:

  • Full-bodied, post-electrocution photographs of the ape while she was alive, including when she was in a cage
  • The post-mortem report
  • Date and time of the electrocution incident

Evidently, these three requests were made based on the premise that the euthanasia did occur. Friends of the Orangutans invites the SWD to respond to this report to clarify the allegations.

We have previously revealed numerous concerns about the SORC. See our reports below for details.

 

When profits rule – Sepilok orangutan release disaster

Sepilok orangutan tourism – here’s what’s wrong

General public finally barred from involvement with orangutan rehab at Sepilok

No transparency from Sabah wildlife authorities on welfare concerns of 6 Sepilok orangutans

Perilous orangutan tourism resumes at Sepilok amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Time for change at Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre

SWD’s dubious plan to release two orphaned Sepilok orangutans

Captive breeding of orangutans is not conservation

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Published 23 October 2020

In December 2019 and February this year, two orangutans were born at Taiping Zoo & Night Safari, Malaysia. We contacted the zoo in September to ask about its purpose for breeding orangutans.

In its response, the zoo stated that its reason for breeding the apes is to maintain a viable captive population in case a need to reintroduce them into the wild arises.

On average, wild-born orangutans spend around seven to eight years with their mothers. The first few years of life are crucial as infant orangutans are taught a wide range of skills on forest survival such as nest-building, avoiding predators, foraging and integration into a wild orangutan population. The natural conditions in a forest are near-impossible to replicate in a zoo.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) indicated in its guidelines for the wild reintroduction of great apes that it is a significant challenge to rehabilitate and release rescued wild-born infant orangutans that had not lived in the wild with their mothers for at least a year. Such is the importance of mother-infant interactions in the wild.

Orangutans in zoos may also be too habituated to humans; over-habituation to humans can cause forest-dwelling orangutans to be more susceptible to poachers and hunters. Additionally, captive-born and bred orangutans may not be as resistant to diseases as wild orangutans.

Breeding orangutans in captivity with the aim of releasing them into a forest is currently not common practice in the area orangutan conservation. The IUCN does not include any orangutan species in its list of wildlife species for which captive breeding has been recommended as a conservation action.

We argue that the primary reason zoos import, breed and keep exotic animals such as orangutans, chimpanzees and tigers are to lure visitors. In mid-September, the president of the Melaka Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council (MPHTJ) stated that Melaka Zoo, a zoo two hours south of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was attempting to acquire more orangutans to increase visitor numbers.

Orangutans are highly intelligent and complex animals, and it can be a challenge to meet their needs in captivity. Till this day Friends of the Orangutans continue to reveal substandard living conditions of orangutans in Malaysian zoos.

Legitimate ape sanctuaries that care for rescued orangutans do their best to avoid animals in their care from breeding. According to the Center for Great Apes, a sanctuary caring for unreleasable orangutans and chimpanzees, it is irresponsible to intentionally breed great apes and add more individuals to a life of captivity when there are already so many in need of rescue.

Captive breeding of orangutans is not conservation, and breeding these highly intelligent animals to only keep them captive for life is unethical. Zoos around the world should stop breeding orangutans.

Instead of breeding orangutans in captivity resources would be better spent on genuine orangutan conservation efforts, such as protecting and connecting the habitats of wild orangutans, addressing human-orangutan conflict and tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Support from the general public to fight deforestation is also crucial to secure the future of dwindling wildlife species.

What can you do today? Share this article on your social media outlets, and send this article to your local elected officials and zoos and demand them to stop breeding orangutans in captivity.

What happened to the mothers of two orphaned Sepilok orangutans?

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Published 14 October 2020. The featured image above is not of either of the two orangutans mentioned below.

The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Sabah state government wildlife agency that manages the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) in Sabah, Malaysia, will not inform if investigations carried out to determine what happened to the mothers of Nami and Zorro, infant orangutans that were orphaned and now at the SORC.

CLICK HERE to tweet to demand transparency from the Sabah authorities.

According to the British charity Orangutan Appeal UK website, Nami was “surrendered” to the department when she was 18 months old, while Zorro was found “all alone at the edge of [sic] plantation” when he was three.

On 30 September Friends of the Orangutans emailed the SWD to ask the department these questions about Nami and Zorro:

  • In which area in Sabah were these two infants found?
  • Were both infants found in an oil palm plantation?
  • Was there any investigation carried out by the department to determine how these infants ended up as orphans, and what happened to their mothers?
  • If there were investigations, what is the outcome of them?

 

The SWD has yet to respond. The department deserves praise for saving the two infants. However, it should be transparent and explain to the public if investigations were carried out to determine what likely happened to the mothers of the two infants. Orangutan mothers do not easily abandon offspring in their care and may even put their own life at risk to defend their young. Investigations should be started if they were previously not done.

Transparency from the SWD is also crucial as funds are publicly being raised for Nami and Zorro at the SORC, a centre owned by the Sabah state government.

Friends of the Orangutans have previously revealed questionable practices at the SORC – see our publications at the end of this article.

Based on information we received, over 150 orangutans were sent to the SORC between 1998 and 2008 (we welcome the SWD’s response if this figure is inaccurate). Were most of them infants? What happened to their mothers?

You can help raise awareness and ask the SWD to be transparent and inform the public if the department had carried out investigations to determine how Nami and Zorro ended up orphans. Here is what you can do:

  • Tweet to the authorities in Sabah. CLICK HERE to tweet now.
  • Write to Mr Augustine Tuuga, the Sabah Wildlife Department Director:

           Augustine.Tuuga@sabah.gov.my

           Copy the two email addresses below into the CC list. Both are emails of the SWD:

jumrafiah.abdshukor@sabah.gov.my
rhinosbh@gmail.com
jamilinais@gmail.com

 

 

Further reading about the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre:

When profits rule – Sepilok orangutan release disaster

Sepilok orangutan tourism – here’s what’s wrong

General public finally barred from involvement with orangutan rehab at Sepilok

No transparency from Sabah wildlife authorities on welfare concerns of 6 Sepilok orangutans

Perilous orangutan tourism resumes at Sepilok amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19: Time for change at Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Centre

SWD’s dubious plan to release two orphaned Sepilok orangutans

 

 

In pictures: Years of appalling treatment of Malaysian orangutans at Kemaman Zoo

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Published on 6 October 2020

Kemaman Recreational Park and Zoo, or simply Kemaman Zoo, is located in the Kemaman district in Terengganu and is about one hour from Kuantan, Pahang. The zoo, opened in 2009, is state-owned and managed by the Kemaman Municipal Council (MPK). Concerns about the welfare of animals at the zoo, including that of orangutans, have been raised in the past.

CLICK HERE to tweet to Perhilitan, the Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department, to ask them to improve the lives of orangutans at Kemaman Zoo, and ensure that the apes are treated humanely.

Photos from mid-2015 show orangutans kept in unstimulating, near barren cages at the zoo. The zoo does have an outdoor enclosure.

Note: there is an infant baby orangutan, called Boboy, with the female orangutan in the images above

 

 

Near the end of 2017, Boboy, the infant orangutan who at the time was only four years old, was found kept in a cramped cage at the zoo. Three days later he was seen in the same cage. Just over two weeks later Boboy was again found in the same cage, at the same location. Shockingly photos from January 2018 once more showed this infant in the cage.

 

 

Did Boboy spend over a month in the cage? We also have images that show this infant kept in the same cage after the zoo was closed. On 10 January 2018, an article was published at Clean Malaysia, an environmental news website, about the plight of orangutans and other animals at Kemaman Zoo. Images of Boboy, a chained elephant and a tiger in a barren cage appeared in the article. Several days later the MPK and PERHILITAN, the peninsular Malaysia wildlife department, both denied any ill-treatment of animals at the zoo. A Terengganu state official claimed that Boboy had to be separated from his mother and provided three different reasons, including to treat an eye infection, while adding that “the baby was temporarily placed in a small cage so as to easily retrieve him for treatment without using sedatives.”

Understandably, at times animals may have to be separated from their mothers or other animals for treatment. However, the manner in which Boboy was kept is unacceptable. The Wildlife Conservation (Operation Of Zoo) Regulations 2012 state that zoos must have a quarantine area to temporarily place or isolate newly acquired animals and to provide treatment to animals that are sick. Assuming that the zoo has a quarantine area, it is unknown why the infant orangutan was kept in an inhumane manner while undergoing treatment.

Photos that were taken near the end of 2017 also show orangutans, the most iconic Malaysian animal, kept in an appalling manner at Kemaman Zoo.

 

 

There were also photos taken in mid-2018 and at the end of the year that show the same unacceptable conditions.

 

 

 

The latest photos of orangutans at Kemaman Zoo show some fire hoses in two larger cages.

 

While any improvement is welcome, orangutans at the Kemaman Zoo need so much more than what the photos above reveal. It is unknown why the orangutans have often been seen sitting on concrete in their dreadful cages when there is an outdoor enclosure at the zoo. To reduce stress on captive orangutans they need the autonomy to get out of zoo visitors’ view when they wish to do so. It is unknown how the zoo enables the apes to do so when they are kept in the two larger cages. Orangutans are extremely smart and complex animals. Yet, most of the time the apes at the zoo look bored and boredom can cause them psychological issues. Lack of physical activity may also cause health problems.

As of 2018, there were four orangutans at the zoo. Three females arrived from Melaka Zoo while Boboy was born at Kemaman Zoo. In 2014, Marina, a female orangutan at the zoo was sent to the Bukit Merah Orangutan Island (OUI) in Perak for breeding. She gave birth to an offspring in July 2016. The infant died several weeks later and Marina herself died a few days after her infant’s demise. Marina could still be alive if she remained at Kemaman Zoo.

Breeding of orangutans in captivity should be stopped as there is little likelihood of captive-bred orangutans ever being released into their natural habitat. Furthermore, orangutans do not thrive in captivity. Kemaman Zoo should not transfer its female orangutans to a different zoo for breeding purposes, and male orangutans should not be sent to the zoo for the same reason. The OUI announced in a 2 September Facebook post the arrival of Melur, a female orangutan from Kemaman Zoo, at its facility for treatment. We do not know if there are also plans by both the Kemaman Zoo and OUI to breed Melur.

As they are highly intelligent animals, orangutans at Kemaman Zoo should be given different types of enrichment every day. If the zoo doesn’t have one, an enrichment schedule should be drawn up to ensure enrichment is provided daily, both in their cages or in the outdoor enclosure.

What has changed to improve the quality of life of orangutans and other animals at Kemaman Zoo? Was it necessary to send orangutans from Melaka Zoo to Kemaman Zoo? Is the zoo even needed?

What can you do today to help orangutans at Kemaman Zoo?

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  • Write to PERHILITAN. Use the email addresses below.

    kadir@wildlife.gov.my
    Dato’ Abdul Kadir bin Abu Hashim
    Director, PERHILITAN (Peninsular Malaysia wildlife department)

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    azhar@wildlife.gov.my
    shamsul.anuar@ketsa.gov.my