World's biggest insects alive!

HULU KLANG, Malaysia - The world's largest moth, the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia, and the world's largest katydid (Macrolyristes corporalis), native to the rainforests of Malaysia, have a common habitat in Zoo Negara.

They are joined by the world's longest stick insect (Phobaeticus serratipes), which can grow up to over 15cm, and the world's most beautiful butterfly Rajah Brooke (Troides Brookiana).

Zoo Negara Malaysia director Dr Mohamad Ngah said: "The zoo is not only a 'viewing gallery', but an acknowledged global centre which provides recreational and conservation education, research and a training facility relating to animals and plants. It has also provided healthcare services to zoo animals over the last 50 years."

It is registered as the country's largest zoo in the Malaysia Book of Records.

One of its crowning moments was when it successful bred the Milky Stork (Mycteria cinerea), one of Malaysia's most endangered bird species.

Under its Conservation Release Programme of Milky Storks, it became the only zoo in Malaysia to release the storks back into the wild. It has donated over 100 Milky Storks to San Diego Zoo, US, Taiping Zoo, Melaka Zoo, Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and Penang Bird Park.

Zoo Negara has also bred in captivity three of the 10 hornbills in Malaysia. They are the Greater Hornbill (Buceros bicornis), Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) and Wrinkled Hornbill (Aceros corrugatus).

Other endangered bird species it has successfully bred include the Nicobar Pigeon (Caleonas nicobarica), Argus Pheasant (Argusianus argus), Malaysian Peacock Pheasant (Polyplectron malacense), Mountain Peacock Pheasant (Polypectron inopiatum), Crested Fireback Pheasant (Lophura ignita rufa) and Crestless Fireback Pheasant (Lophura reytropthalma).

Mohamad said: "The zoo reaches out to almost 5,000 students annually through educational programmes such as Discovery Tour, Malaysian Endangered Journey and I Am A Zookeeper."

He said the zoo provided industrial training and internship opportunities for almost 200 students from over the world such as Royal Veterinary College UK, Nantes National Veterinary School, France, University of Edinburgh, Kingston-Maurward College Dorchester, UK and National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Mohamad said an RM8.2 million allocation received last month from Natural Resources and Environment Ministry will be used to upgrade its facilities.

"The funds will be used to upgrade the elephant pen, construct a bear complex, and enclosures for the Nile hippo, chimpanzees and baboons."

Zoo Negara Malaysia is owned and managed by the Malaysian Zoological Society, a non-government organisation formed in 1961.

The zoo was opened by Malaysia's first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman on Nov 14, 1963.