Insane for another bird park in Malacca

By SM Mohd Idris, Sahabat Alam Malaysia

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is unequivocally opposed to the plan for the largest bird park in Southeast Asia sited at the Botanical Gardens in Ayer Keroh Malacca.  It would be insanity on the part of the Malacca Chief Minister if he harbours such an ill-conceived plan when zoos and animal establishments in Malaysia are widely known and reported to be in appalling states.

State Governments, Councils and individuals may be rich in ambition to have the largest, biggest or grandest zoos and aviaries but do they know or care about the basic care and welfare of animal and their requirements? Judging from the past, the lack of ability to run zoos or bird parks may cause many of the birds to be reduced to a spectacle of abuse or neglect and many may die eventually.  

The question everyone or every animal welfare group should ask is from where and how the birds are sourced.  Sourcing for 6000 birds from 300 species to fill the largest aviary will fuel the trade in live birds that not only enriches the pockets of traders and poachers, it may cause more than half of those caught to die as a result of the birds being packed into crates and transported over long distances.  There will be little concern for wastage of bird life as these profiteers in the bird trade can literally get away with murder. 

The other question we ask is why undertake to house such a huge collection of birds knowing that space would be shockingly inadequate.  If the Malacca State Government is serious about best practices for the aviary then the project would not have started with demand for 6000 birds due to the inadequacy of space. The Malacca Government fails to recognize that animals and birds have a basic need for the appropriate amount of space. No amount of behavioural enrichment can compensate for the spatial needs of the birds. 

SAM fails to see the need for an aviary in the middle of a botanic garden. The botanic garden itself is good enough to be a major tourist attraction with its wide varieties of plant species considering the immense beauty and variety that the plant kingdom offers. The garden is also a place which attracts native birds. It could be an idyllic oasis for the free-roaming birds in the centre of the city.

Constructing an aviary within the gardens is a cruel attempt to bring nature to people where we can see birds in flight and chirping away when in reality the birds are living under captive conditions only to be displayed for man’s amusement.  Life in captivity can never be adequate for the fulfillment of any species or individual, since the best habitat for animals is in their natural environment.  All species are born free, and detention or isolation, whether of birds or humans, is an expression of cruelty and inhumanity.

This brings to mind the question of staffing and a host of other issues:  1) Whether staff are experienced and qualified to care for the different exotic birds that have special needs?  

2) Any ability or expertise to manage and train inexperienced staff?

3) The level of veterinary care and hygiene standards?

4) Resources available to upgrade exhibits?  

5) The ability to keep up with a variety of environmental enrichment? and

6) The expertise for managing such a large and diverse aviary?

From the above-stated reasons SAM calls on the Malacca Government to abandon its plan for the establishment of the largest bird park in Southeast Asia.

In view of the many zoos that were closed by the authorities due to the appalling conditions of confinement of the animals and the atrocious abuse and neglect of these animals, SAM once again reiterate its stand for closure of bad zoos and limit the number of zoos to a few good ones. 

SAM would also urge  the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Department of Wildlife to completely stop the issuing of new licences for upcoming  zoos and to continue monitoring all existing zoos in order to reform the wild animal industry.

S M Mohd Idris
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)