Jaguar needs a new home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 July, 1996, 12:00am

Following-up on John Wedderburn's letter, 'Suffering from zoochosis' (South China Morning Post, July 6), which was a response to my letter of July 1 regarding the jaguar in the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Mr Wedderburn begins to touch on some of the salient issues of this case.

The only way that zoos such as the Zoological and Botanical Gardens can justify their existence are as breeding grounds for species under threat of extinction. The species of jaguar in question may be endangered but the issue of its appalling accommodation still needs to be addressed. Why is the jaguar enclosure significantly smaller than the orang-utan's? If Mr Wedderburn is correct in saying that these animals are being used to breed then why can't their young be released into the wild instead of being sent to a zoo in Guangzhou, a city more famous for its horrendous animal market? The argument that zoos are justifiable on educational grounds is weak. The quality of wildlife programmes and publications such as National Geographic are superb and provide more than enough educational material for our children.

If these jaguars are suffering from mental disorders then perhaps it could be argued that it would be more humane to have them put down. This is obviously an unacceptable solution but the least that should be done is that they be transferred to another, more enlightened zoo, where they can receive mental stimulation and physical exercise. If this is not possible then a larger and more interesting dwelling should be constructed in Hong Kong.

These issues relate in some way to all creatures in this zoo but this example is a particularly poignant one.

I look forward to receiving a reply from the Urban Council/ Agriculture and Fisheries Department.