Animals rescued from Johor Zoo

JOHOR BARU - Officers from the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) have rescued five animals from the Johor Zoo, said to have been kept in deplorable and unsuitable conditions.

Those seized included a tiger named Jeli, which was sent there after it killed a rubber tapper in Kelantan several years ago, the chain-smoking orang utan Shirley and baby elephant Paloh that had reportedly been chained.

Also taken away were another orang utan and elephant calf.

The animals were given to the zoo several years ago by the department under a special permit from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Perhilitan deputy director-general Dr Zaaba Zainol Abidin said the operation, which involved 15 workers, was approved by the ministry.

"The zoo has failed to follow the standard regulations and requirements set by the department to provide better and proper living conditions for the animals," Dr Zaaba said here yesterday.

He said Jeli would be moved to the Tiger Valley in the Klau Forest Reserve in Temerloh and the elephant calves to the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah, both in Pahang, for a retraining programme.

"The tiger had to be taken away because it had even killed its female companion, which was brought to the zoo for breeding purposes," he added.

Shirley and the other orang utan would be returned to their natural habitat at the Matang wildlife centre in Sarawak, added Dr Zaaba, urging the zoo to upgrade its facilities.

Visitors expressed shock as the animals were seized from the zoo, which had remained open during the operation.

Mohd Fadil Hamzah, 28, who was there with his girlfriend, said he could see the animals being taken away from where they stood near the chimpanzee enclosure.

The zoo's officer-in-charge, Shubanah Yusof, said it would remain open despite "losing" the animals.

The zoo, one of the oldest in the country, was opened in 1928.