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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Malaysian zoo's chain-smoking orangutan

Is this the world's worst zoo? Shirley the orangutan allowed to become a chain-smoker by heartless attendants

* Crocodiles live in waterless enclosures and big cats live in tiny cages in Malaysian animal park

A trip to the zoo should fill any animal fan with a sense of joy wonder, but in Malaysia the experience inspires revulsion.

Crocodiles struggle in waterless enclosures while lions and tigers are trapped in boxes barely big enough to house them, leaving no room to roam around.

But worst of all is the plight of Shirley, a 25-year-old orangutan, who competes with cage-mate Abu for cigarette butts thrown by tourists to satisfy her smoking habit.

 Puffed out: Shirley the chain-smoking orangutan is typical of the horrors to be found in Malaysian zoos

 Hungry: Shirley spends her days tearing apart drinks cans and food wrappers thrown by tourists as she searches for more food and drink 

The government-run zoo in in Johor Baru has erected a 'no smoking' sign but that will do precious little to stop the sad practice while attendants turn their backs on it.

Shirley spends much of her sad existence tearing apart drinks cans and chewing on food wrappers thrown at her by visitors. 

She regularly reaches through the bars of her cage to beg for cigarettes.

Attempts by the Malaysian government's wildlife ministry Perhilitan to clamp-down on the appalling conditions in the country's zoos, rated among the worst in the world, have been virtually ignored. 

Last October a new law was passed that gave the zoos six moths to clean up their act but when the June deadline passes there will have been shamefully little progress made. 

Ten zoos in the country were investigated last week and animals were still found living in tiny, dirty enclosures, sometimes without water for drinking or swimming. 

 No room: This tiger is kept in an enclosure that affords barely any room for exercise

 Indifference: Zoos in Malaysia were given six months to clean up their acts in October but when the June deadline passes precious little progress will have been made

Some animals were being made to perform, despite the practise being banned, but worst of all was the example of one zoo that had been obtaining its animals on the black market.  

Non-profit British charity Nature Alert has worked hard to prick the conscience of the Malaysian government but with obvious indifference to the new regulations, it says the time has come to focus international attention on a problem for which a wealthy country has no excuse. 

'The government makes promise after promise. They never keep any of them, but I will hold their feet to the fire until they do,' Sean Whyte of Nature Alert told The Mirror.

'I can understand different cultures, but this is purely people exploiting wildlife for financial gain illegally. 

Malaysia is a hub for the illegal trade in animals. Those orangutans have been in zoos approved of by the government.

'I advise anyone visiting Malaysia to stay away from zoos – or risk becoming deeply upset at what they see.'
 Not up to standard: The entrance to Johor Baru zoo in Malaysia where Shirley has been allowed to cultivate a smoking habit and animals are kept in appalling conditions

 Ignores regulations: Some of the animals at Johor Baru zoo are made to perform for visitors despite that being outlawed

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