NGO stands firm on orang utan abused claim

Posted on January 11, 2012. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

-Free Malaysia Today-

UK-based NGO Nature Alert says its photographs were not taken in certain angles to deliberately shame Malaysia, but depicted the real situation.

PETALING JAYA: Peeved with the government’s tendency to deny any wrongdoing when it comes to animal abuse, UK-based animal conservation NGO Nature Alert said, “The past is a place to learn from, not live in.”

Nature Alert was responding to the statement by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry last weekend which brushed off the NGO’s claim that orang utans kept at the Malacca Zoo have been abused.

The ministry claimed that Nature Alert took photographs of the orang utans in certain angles in order to deliberately mislead the public and that it was making baseless accusations in an attempt to tarnish Malaysia’s image.

“It would appear the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) and the ministry, are becoming ever more desperate to mislead the public into thinking reality is nothing but an illusion.

“It is ridiculous of Perhilitan to say we are manipulating the orang utans to damage the country’s reputation,” said Sean Whyte, chief executive officer of Nature Alert.

Whyte said the photographs of the orang utans taken from the Malacca Zoo was “what we saw with our own eyes.”

“The camera does not lie and neither do we. Anyone so minded could take the same photos. Keeper supervision is lax to non-existent,” he claimed.

Whyte said that on every visit the NGO had made to the zoo, including last weekend right after the response from the ministry, it had only observed the same mother and baby orang utan outside.

He was responding to the ministry’s claim that the orang utans were not kept in small cages 24-hours and were released on rotational basis outside.

“We took photos of the remaining orang utans inside their cages because this is where they always are unless brought out to impress a friendly journalist.

“Perhilitan through their serial neglect over many years are doing the damage. We are reporting what we are seeing. Just because it makes uncomfortable reading for Perhilitan , this does not make it untrue. Anyone scanning the news will know we are by no means the sole critic of Perhilitan,” said Whyte.

He also claimed that on two occasions, a keeper of one male orang utan also told Nature Alert that the animals were never allowed outside into the sunshine and open air.

Rejected visit to A’ Famosa enclosure

Whyte admitted to the ministry’s accusation that he had turned down a friendly invitation to view a new orang utan enclosure at A’Famosa.

He explained that he did so because he had no reasons to “be in the presence of a company which has abused orang utans”.

Nature Alert investigator Shiva Lucian said: “Here we go again. Perhilitan and their friends at A’ famosa trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the media and public. In the meantime orang utans remain locked up in cages, just as they have been for 12 months or more.”

Shiva, who visited A’Famosa last week, said that the new enclosures were used as a movie set and no orang utan were in sight.

While admitting that it was a “big improvement”, he said that it was “nothing” as it was still the same golf resort which “imprisoned eight orang utans in squalid conditions for 12 months and caught red-handed in the past with wild orang utans but never prosecuted.”

“In 2011, eight orang utans were incarcerated like this for 12 months at A’Famosa with the full knowledge and complicity of Perhilitan. Are the four orang utans returned to A’Famosa back behind bars again? Certainly they are nowhere to be seen in the new outside enclosure,” asked Whyte.

The group had repeatedly called for the animals to be sent back to a sanctuary in Sarawak rather than be put in A’Famosa, where some orang utans were transferred out due to reports of abuse.

“It’s time Perhilitan stopped talking and started doing for the hundreds of suffering animals in zoos throughout Malaysia,” he said.

On Dec 31, FMT reported the discoveries of Shiva of the NGO Friends of Orang Utan.

He had taken photographs of abused orang utans, who were “kept at secret locations” of the zoo. He reported that he saw eight orang utans held captive in tiny dirty cages where they could barely move, and without “a single leaf” for enrichment of their environment.

The plight of the orang utans was also highlighted in the online versions of British newspapers, The Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. It was reported that the stories sparked off a bombardment of 60,000 angry e-mails to Perhilitan and zoo officials.

Whyte, who condemned the treatment of the apes, had sought the prosecution of Melaka zoo staff by Perhilitan officials.

He said he had lodged numerous complaints with the authorities but saw little action being taken.

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