By Sonia Ramachandran
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - The government will soon have more say in the running of zoos.
This is because the soon-to-be-passed Wildlife Conservation Act will empower the Wildlife and Natural Parks Department to look into the management of zoos and the welfare of animals.
National Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said the cabinet had given its approval for the Wildlife Conservation Act to replace the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.
Among the main things in the new Wildlife Conservation Act, he said, would be the empowerment of the Wildlife and Natural Parks Department to regulate the establishment and running of zoos.
"This would include the management of the zoo as well as the way the animals are kept in zoos. We hope to table it in Parliament by June," Uggah told the New Sunday Times.
He said the Wildlife Protection Act had no provisions on the running of zoos. The new act, said Uggah, would also have increased penalties against poachers.
The New Sunday Times had recently reported that the welfare of animals at Zoo Negara had been compromised because of a lack of funds.
There have also been allegations of money mismanagement.
A lack of funds had also led to the night safari being discontinued and some enclosures not being upgraded.
Zoo Negara is managed by the Malaysian Zoological Society, a non-governmental organisation. It has over 5,137 animals from 459 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
Some Zoo Negara life members had asked the government not to pump money into the national zoo until there was a thorough probe into the situation at the zoo.
There were also suggestions that Zoo Negara follow the Singapore Zoo model and be turned into a government-linked company.
Uggah said a paper on Zoo Negara would be presented to the cabinet as soon as all loose ends had been tied. When asked when that would be, Uggah said: "Very soon. The issues on whether Zoo Negara will be turned into a government-linked company and whether the government will be pumping money into the national zoo will be included in the paper."