Malaysia: Rescued – only to die of poor care

VINCENT TAN and EDDIE CHUA The Star 20 May 17;

EXCLUSIVE: PETALING JAYA: Thousands of protected animals seized by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) have died in the hands of the authority in the past year due to mishandling.

These animals, many of which are endangered species and exotic, were being smuggled or kept illegally by local pet owners when they were seized.

A source said the lack of expertise and knowledge to handle these animals in captivity led to their death.

Among the animals that died in Perhilitan custody were 1,000 Indian Star tortoises and 10 juvenile and baby langurs.

These two species were seized from illegal dealers in mid-2016 and March 27 respectively.

Other animals that have died in the Perhilitan rescue centres include Asian Leopard Cats, small primates including endangered gibbons, and exotic white-rumped Shamas (murai batu).

The source said these animals were among many other seized species kept at the department’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Sungkai, Perak, and at Sungai Tengi, Selangor.

These two husbandries are Perhilitan’s main holding centres for seized animals.

The department has 11 other conservation centres nationwide which serve as holding centres for seized wildlife.

The source said many of the handlers have little or no knowledge in keeping, handling and caring for the animals.

“They are not well trained to handle these species and have little knowledge or technical expertise to take care of the animals, which are kept at the centres waiting to be repatriated to their country of origin.

“As such, these animals were neglected. They were not properly fed, given the right diet, or housed in proper facilities.

“These factors,” said the source, “caused the animals to be stressed from captivity, thus making them prone to disease and death.”

A former Perhilitan veterinarian said there was a need for rangers to be trained to handle these animals.

“Many do not know what are the best practices for the animals they are dealing with.

“They don’t have the basic knowledge such as the characteristics or even diet of these species to care for them.

“As such, the animals get sick, are stressed and die,” he said.

He said Perhilitan had its own veterinarians to deal with the seized animals but all these officers were seconded from the Veterinary Department.

“Many of us are trained in handling domestic animals and learn to deal with exotic animals and wildlife after joining Perhilitan,” he added.

Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, says Malaysia is one of many South-East Asian countries that does not have expertise to handle seized smuggled animals in captivity.

Its South-East Asia director Chris Shepherd said Traffic was aware of Perhilitan’s problem but added that this could be averted or minimised if the department takes steps to have a working group comprising members from Perhilitan, the Customs Department, and academicians.

He said it was a challenge for the department to care for the seized animals as it had to deal with many different species.

“However, if they pool their resources together, it would reduce the mortality rate,” he said.

Shepherd said that allowing a private rescue agency to deal with these exotic and imported species would also boost the survival rate of the seized animals.


‘A third of seized animals suffered injury or disease’
The Star 20 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: Nearly 30% – or one out of three – of the protected animals seized by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) died under its care.

A Perhilitan spokesman said that an average of between 25% and 30% of the seized animals died as these animals had suffered injury or contracted diseases while being moved from place to place.

“Some species are sensitive and get stressed very easily when travelling in unsuitable containers.

“Others already suffered internal injuries and illness before they were seized and had little chance of survival,” the spokesman said in an email reply to The Star.

It said that between September 2016 and January, the department conducted 837 enforcement raids.

Besides seizing wildlife smuggled into the country, Perhilitan enforcement also involved technical issues related to late licence renewal. Of the number of cases, 42 involved court action.

While the department did not address the fate of the 1,000 seized Indian Star tortoises, the spokesman said the reptiles were not repatriated as the Indian authorities had rejected the department’s offer to send them back home.

It said all seized animals were dealt with and handled according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature guidelines.

The local species seized from the traders have been treated and rehabilitated. They will be released back into the wild.


WWF: Set up animal welfare centre
The Star 20 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: An independently-run wildlife rescue and welfare centre should be established to help the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) to care for seized animals in this country.

WWF-Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma (pic) said the setting up of such a centre would reduce the mortality rate of the seized animals.

“The department handles different seized wildlife at different times. It has limited facilities and manpower to care for and handle the animals under its custody.

“A rescue centre can be the ideal solution,” he said.

Sharma said that, technically, some of these seized animals should be sent to zoos to be looked after.

He said the Malacca Zoo used to be under Perhilitan’s jurisdiction but after it was privatised, it was difficult for the facility or any other zoo in the country to take in and care for seized animals.

Sharma said an independently-run wildlife centre would allow the seized wildlife to be professionally looked after.

“It would also be responsible for rehabilitating some of the local seized animals to be released back into the wild,” he said.

Currently, he said, there was no such centre but if funds were available, it could be established with the help of non-governmental organisations involved in wildlife conservation.


Doc: Caring for seized wildlife not too difficult
VINCENT TAN The Star 21 May 17;

PETALING JAYA: Taking care of seized wildlife may be challenging, but it certainly is not very difficult, says a former Zoo Negara official.

Former Zoo Negara assistant director Datuk Dr S. Vellayan said given the correct living conditions and nutrition, these animals could survive.

He said many of those handling the seized animals in Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) have no proper training on wildlife husbandry, hence leading to complications in keeping the rescued animals alive.

He said many of the officers assigned to look after the animals would employ a trial and error method instead.

Dr Vellayan, currently an associate professor at the Puncak Alam campus of Universiti Teknologi Mara, said taking care of wildlife, whether in zoos or a conservation facility requires people with zoological knowledge and experience to understand wildlife physiology and nutritional needs.

“The department also needs funds to send their rangers and veterinarians, who are seconded from the Veterinary Department, to go on specialised courses on wildlife management,” he said.

Currently, many of Perhilitan’s officers, rangers and veterinarians managing the wildlife rescued and welfare centres lack formal training in wildlife husbandry and medicine. Many of them learned their skills on the job, he said.

“Perhilitan needs to draw up better standard operating procedures, including record-keeping as it is important to note observations like food intake and changes to the animals’ condition,” he said.

Dr Vellayan said the lack of knowledge of animals’ diet could also lead to their death.

The Star yesterday reported that thousands of protected animals seized by Perhilitan have died in the hands of the authority in the past year due to mishandling.

These animals, many of which are endangered species and exotic, were being smuggled or kept illegally by local pet owners when they were seized.

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