Sun bear, racehorse died of suspected poisoning

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MALACCA: A Malayan sun bear and a racehorse have died at Malacca Zoo, here, as a result of suspected deliberate poisoning.

A vet at the zoo, Dr. Zubaidah Kamarudin, said autopsy results on the sun bear revealed that it had eaten a banana which contained a white powder. 

"At around 5pm on Sunday, a visitor told a member of zoo staff that a sun bear was behaving oddly. When the zookeeper went to check on the animal, we found it foaming at the mouth and suffering from seizures," she said. 

Dr. Zubaidah said the sun bear was immediately taken to the zoo's clinic to attempt to flush out the poison, but unfortunately, it could not be saved. 

"The poison used was very strong; it caused severe damage to the sun bear's digestive system and we were unable to save it," she said.

The female sun bear, estimated to have been around 14 to 16 years old, had been one of four sun bears under the zoo's care and had been rescued from the forests of Johor by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) in 2000 before being sent to Malacca Zoo. 

The Malayan sun bear, also known as the honey bear due to its penchant for eating honey, is classified as 'vulnerable' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a result of the large-scale deforestation that has occurred throughout Southeast Asia over the past three decades, dramatically reducing its habitat.

Dr. Zubaidah added that following the incident, thorough checks were made on all animals and their exhibits. 

"During the checks, we found a plastic bag in the chimpanzee exhibit containing a banana, an orange and sugar cane, all with the same white powder. Luckily, no animals had eaten it," she said. 

This morning, a 17-year-old male racehorse had also been found dead in its stall by zoo staff. 

The racehorse, named Basket, had been a part of the pony ride exhibit at the zoo for the past three years and had been on loan.

Samples from both animals have been sent to the Chemistry Department to determine the type of poison that had been used. 

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, who visited Malacca Zoo today, said it was clear that the animals had been intentionally poisoned. 

"I'm very saddened by the deaths of these innocent animals. Whoever was responsible for this is cruel and irresponsible.

"I've been informed that the sun bear had been fed the poisoned banana prior to its feeding time, so it is possible that a visitor had been behind this," he said. 

Mohd Ali added that in the past, Malacca Zoo had allowed visitors to bring in food to feed the animals. 

"However, with immediate enforcement, zoo management have decided that visitors are not allowed to bring outside food to give to the animals and must purchase food supplied by the zoo that has been deemed safe. 

"Additionally, I have suggested to zoo management to install closed-circuit television cameras around the zoo to closely monitor activities within the compound," he said. 

Mohd Ali also said a police report had been filed, adding that the state government was offering a RM10,000 reward to those with information that would lead to apprehending the culprit. 


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