Update: Please, no tigers on the island! That’s the plea of an experienced vet in Penang whom I spoke to. “Penang as an island is not the place for wild animals especially tigers. The whole concept of having animals is not like those days when they were caged. Now they are left to roam in the loose and they have their own environment, but never in captivity. Even the concept of zoos has changed to the open system. You can’t have a tiger roaming wild on the island (without a supporting ecological balance). In a normal safari, the animals have their own eco-system where the bigger animals (roam around and) survive by eating smaller animals.”
Looks like the proposal for a Tiger Park in Penang is receiving a mauling.
And not just from local wildlife conservation groups such as the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat!), which comprises the Malaysian Nature Society, Traffic Southeast Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society-Malaysia Programme and World Wildlife Fund-Malaysia.
News of the Tiger Park plan has even reached the global media for all the wrong reasons. Check out the BBC report here.
If the Penang government is really interested in eco-tourism, then it should clean up the beaches and rivers and protect the hillslopes from greedy property developers. Identify the sources of river and sea pollution and penalise the culprits. Create a more liveable city too by reducing the dependence on private motor vehicles and promoting public transport. (Do not approve the Penang Outer Ring Road.) And oh yes, create more parks – people’s parks, that is, not artificial tiger parks. Pulau Jerejak could also be turned into a nature sanctuary.
Who would want to come and pay big money to gawk at tigers during a recession (or depression)? Zoos do not excite children these days as they seem obsessed with computer games and playstations and what-have-you.
Now we know the Council does have 100 acres it could use for a People’s Park. A well-maintained People’s Park would would make Penang stand out and in the long run draw more visitors than an artificial Tiger Park.
If the tigers are not properly looked after, the park could have the opposite effect and put people off Penang. I recall how a global signature campaign was recently carried out in the West after a tourist captured on video a couple of monkeys kept in a small cage in a private park in an island resort in peninsular Malaysia.
When I received the news via an email petition, I immediately alerted the park owners and told them about the video and the petition and told them to do something about it. They told me they were taking immediate action – and I believe they did act on it. But by then the bad publicity had already spread via the Internet through the outraged remarks on the online signature petition and the emails circulating around.
This is the sort of the thing that could happen in this age of Youtube and online petitions if nature lovers see wildlife being poorly treated.