Activists slam proposed tiger park in Malaysia

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 21, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Conservationists have slammed plans to create a tiger park on Malaysia’s resort island of Penang, warning Saturday that the project would be too expensive to maintain and could lead to illegal wildlife trade.

The Penang government recently proposed setting up a 100-acre (40-hectare) tiger park to boost tourism, a key revenue-earner for the northern state.

But the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers said the country already has 40 zoos and that maintaining them is a challenge for authorities.

It also warned that some preserves — like Harbin Siberian Tiger Park and Guilin Tiger Park in China — are essentially farms that breed thousands of tigers and have been implicated in illegally profiting from the killing and sale of their animals.

“Building zoos and wildlife parks always sounds simple and exciting, but in reality, this is far from the truth and has far more negative implications,” it said in a letter to the Penang government.

“Housing and feeding large numbers of these carnivores will be financially draining as tigers are notoriously expensive animals to keep in captivity. Feeding alone will cost about 30,000 ringgit ($8,219) per animal per year,” it said.

It expressed fears that the animals could end up being sold to maintain the park.

The group said the plan also violates the federal government’s commitment to protect and increase wild tiger populations. Under the National Tiger Action Plan launched in December, jungle corridors will be protected and authorities hope there will be 1,000 Malayan tigers roaming in the wild by 2020.

Illegal hunting and the human encroachment and destruction of natural jungle habitat have reduced Malaysia’s wild tiger population from 3,000 to 500 in the last half-century. Although illegal, tiger meat is exported, served at exotic restaurants and used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng promised Saturday his government will consider all public views before making a final decision.

“We must continue to upgrade” to attract tourists, he told The Associated Press. “We should not be caught in old mind-set, we must be creative and innovative.”


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