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Friends of the Earth Malaysia (FOEM)

Kindly circulate this letter to editor below to any groups and media circle for publication. We at Friends of the Earth Malaysia (FOEM) would also like to know your views on whether its right to have a mini zoo at a beverage cafe, and is there anything that you can think of to stop the proliferation of more such establishments in cafes and other outlets in our country - Malaysia?

Thank you in advance for your valuable feedback. Wildlife viewing in a cafe.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia’s attention was drawn to an email diverted to us for follow-up action, from a visiting tourist on a tiger exhibited in a small area at a café in Burau Bay, Langkawi.

A visitation from SAM revealed a tiger on display at a café in an enclosed area, with natural setting of grass and bamboo plants while another exhibit next to the tiger enclosure displayed a marmoset. There is intent to bring in a pair of tigers sometime this year.

There are already zoos in theme parks and resorts. Such being the case it won’t be long until café outlets move in with plans for mini zoos, aviaries and or aquarias. The café claimed that the wild female animal presented by a zoo is not a hybrid.

When questioned the purpose of keeping a tiger in a café, the café management was quick to proclaim that such facility benefit education and promote the conservation of our endangered species whose number have dwindled to near extinction. The astonishing truth is permit for the keeping of this tiger was issued by the Wildlife department followed by periodic inspection of the animal.

There are two pertinent questions raised: What is a wild tiger doing in a café when ideally it should be in its natural habitat? Another pair will be coming in later. If it is not for breeding purpose what other reasons are there for the additional collection?

The café’s claim that the tiger is solely for education is totally unconvincing to SAM. We maintain that *zoos deliver a misleading, and damaging message* by implying (both implicitly and explicitly) that captivity is beneficial to the cause of species conservation and that visitors are able to witness “wildlife” first-hand in the captive environment. This message directly contradicts that of many leading experts in the field of conservation and the overwhelming body of evidence that demonstrates that species can be conserved only as part of their entire ecosystem; that is, *habitat conservation is the only way in which effective conservation can be realised*. In addition, by virtue of their captive state, zoo animals do not behave as their wild counterparts, thus seeing an animal in a café does not educate about species’ life in the wild. As a result, the captive animal represents a distorted view of its own species. Besides what conservation value is the café promoting?

Upkeep of the tiger is from donation and fees charged for photographs of the tiger while having a cuppa. Another form of entertainment for the public similar to the Singapore’s concept of ‘Breakfast with Ah Meng’ carried out previously. Here it is more of enjoying your cuppa with a tiger.

By its very act of allowing a mini zoo to operate in a cafe, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Wildlife Department is setting a bad precedent for all other cafes/outlets to follow.

It is ironic for the department to conduct seizures of poorly run zoos and badly managed animal facilities whilst continuously issuing permits for new animal establishments where of all places – cafe outlets.

Our calls on the Ministry and the department to terminate the issuing of permits to new zoos and all such animal facilities have fallen on deaf ears. All these problems of poorly run and badly managed zoos would not have arise if the Ministry had not rushed through into the issuing of permits with unseemly haste and without justification for need for such zoos.

Once again SAM reiterates its stand to the Ministry to cease once and for all permits to new zoos.

*S M Mohd Idris* President Sahabat Alam Malaysia(SAM)/Friends of the Earth Malaysia (FOEM)

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