February 9, 2018

A Chimp was Shot dead at a Zoo in Langkawi, activists tell Clean Malaysia

A Chimp was Shot dead at a Zoo in Langkawi, activists tell Clean Malaysia

Photo Credit: Max Pexel

There they languished, the three chimps, within dingy little enclosures at Bukit Gambang Safari Park in Pahang. The three apes (16-year-old Botan, 18-year-old Sumomo, and 29-year-old Gonbei) spent their time being cooped up in small 3m-by-4m cages without much of a chance to move around at will outdoors, according to animal rights activists, who raised the alarm about the animals’ plight.

They posted a video on YouTube showing the chimps becoming agitated within their small and filthy separate enclosures. They are banging on iron doors and throwing their metal plates around in despondent anger.

That was in early December last year.​ Then the chimps were transferred ​to a brand-new zoo called Langkawi Nature Park, which was opened to public in January.

A spot of good luck for the long-suffering apes? Hardly.

Presently, Sumomo, one of the three, was reportedly shot and killed by the zoo’s security guards, animal rights activists tell Clean Malaysia, after she had escaped first from her night den and then from her enclosure and made her way into the open. ​

A chimp at the Bukit Gambang Safari Park in Pahang. Photo Credit: FOTO

These activists say their emails and phone calls to management at the zoo seeking details and clarification have gone unanswered.

The shocking death of the chimp, which has not been confirmed by her keepers, has understandably upset animal experts. “It’s a tragic end for one of the chimps after she and the other two suffered for more than two years in barren cages at the Bukit Gambang Safari Park zoo,” Upreshpal Singh, director of the nonprofit Friends of the Orangutans (Foto) who has been following the situation of the three chimps closely, tells Clean Malaysia.

“The remaining two chimps are in the wrong hands and must be confiscated so they can be repatriated to an African sanctuary before they too die,” he adds. “We contacted the owner of Bukit Gambang and Langkawi Nature Park, which is Sentoria Group Bhd, several times, but have received no response,” he says. “They also refused to answer if one chimp had died at LNP. Now we know why.”

If nothing else, the zoo’s staff is guilty of negligence, observes Jon Hofmeijer​, a Dutch chimpanzee expert. “The escape of the chimpanzee out of her night stall and surrounding enclosure surely shows the building was not safe enough to contain dangerous animals like chimps,” he notes. “The facilities were seriously lacking giving the chimpanzee the opportunity to escape not only one but two enclosures.”

By setting herself free, the chimp could have ended up posing a threat to staff and visitors (although the zoo was closed to the public when she made her escape). Yet shooting her dead may well have been an overreaction on the part of the zoo’s security apparatus. “A chimpanzee that escapes can be a serious danger to people,” Hofmeijer says.

“And although shooting to kill is understandable if there is imminent danger, in this case I feel that at least an attempt to sedate the animal could have been made,” he elucidates. “I understand the zoo was not open to the public and the chimpanzee entered a café at one point. Maybe the animal could have been contained there and darted with a tranquillizer.”

He adds: “It is a shame the chimpanzee was killed because of a bad enclosure. It could have been prevented.”

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  1. Mr. S M Mohd Idris

    Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) raises concerns about an issue which has attracted much publicity since it became news after it was highlighted by animal rights activists—the shooting of a chimp at a zoo in Langkawi.
    Why was the chimp shot? Because it made a daring escape from its night den, into its enclosure and into the open. A sad and tragic ending for a chimp that had lived a life of misery along with two other chimps. Transferred from their dingy 3m by 4m enclosures at the Bukit Gambang Safari Park wherein they were incarcerated for close to three years, to the Langkawi Nature Park (LNP), which are both owned by the Sentoria group, did not allow for a good quality of life for these chimps.

    Adult chimps can be very dangerous and they can be a threat to people in zoos, if they escape. But zoos must also be prepared with humane options, or non-lethal methods of subduing a chimp, such as a tranquiliser dart, or net, for cases of escaped wildlife. At that time of this escape, the zoo was closed to public. In this case serious questions need to be raised immediately about how an adult chimp managed to escape, and why the animal was shot dead. Zoos are required to ensure that enclosures and boundary fencing are designed and maintained to prevent escapes. Obviously LNP is substandard and should be held accountable for the chimp’s escape in the first place.

    Judging from the banging on the cages, the chimps are not receiving the proper enrichment and stimuli. In the wild chimps live in large groups. Here at the park, it is psychologically damaging for them to be in small barren cages because they lack mental stimulation and the company of their own kind. These are the types of behaviors often seen in animals that are closely confined, lack proper care and habitat areas, and have little opportunity for mental stimulation or physical exercise.

    Is Perhilitan aware of the plight of the chimps kept in Bukit Gambang zoo? If Perhilitan has an eye for detail then action should be taken against the zoo’s management for the psychological abuse suffered by the chimps. Often animals’ normal behaviour is seldom discussed, much less observed, and their natural needs are rarely met.

    The Zoo Licencing Act should be amended to force zoo managers to ensure the psychological needs of the animals are met. The only welfare protection zoo animals have is not to be treated cruelly. The fact that an animal is not able to behave in a normal way for its species is not considered cruelty. This means that local zoos can continue to house animals in a space likened to a “menagerie from the last century.”

    Wildlife officials need to heed increased public awareness of the suffering of captive animals and listen to wildlife experts who recommend that zoos be phased out. SAM believes that visitor experience at zoos should not be considered more important than animal welfare.

    If one is truly concerned about the impact that zoos have on animal welfare, it is best to stay away from zoos and businesses which hold animals captive for profit, and as source of entertainment.

    S M Mohd Idris

    Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)

    258 Jalan Air Itam

    10460 Penang

    Tel: 04-2286930 Fax: 04-2286932

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