Efforts made to improve living environment of orang-utans

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 March, 2010, 12:00am

I refer to your editorial ('If we must have a zoo, it's got to be a good one', March 9) regarding the living environment of animals in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department attaches great importance to the well-being of animals, including orang-utans, in the zoo.

The department has a dedicated team of staff comprising a senior veterinary officer and staff well-trained in animal husbandry to look after the orang-utans. With years of experience in taking care of orang-utans, our staff understand their food and accommodation needs.

The department has made efforts to improve their living environment by providing various facilities, including a water pond and drinking water containers, barrels, sacks, palm and banana leaves and sunflower seeds in hay to stimulate them mentally. Since the orang-utans are arboreal, we provide a lot of high-level activities areas, including sitting platforms, a climbing ladder and ropes, climbing net and artificial mound. In addition, only a portion of the front part of the cage is mounted with a glass panel, leaving plenty of spaces for the orang-utans to climb. These facilities are considered a better alternative to trees because of safety considerations for the orang-utans and visitors.

The zoo has had a lot of success with breeding orang-utans but we will not be complacent. Our efforts to make further improvements to the living environment of orang-utans and other aspects of care work will continue.

Before the transfer of the male orang-utan Vandu from Sosto Zoo of Hungary to our zoo, we provided all details of our facilities to the European Endangered Species Programme studbook committee, including photos and the layout of the orang-utan enclosure. The committee endorsed the transfer of the orang-utan to Hong Kong.

The zoo is a member of a number of internationally-renowned organisations including the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, the International Species Information System, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the Association of Zoological Horticulture, the International Association of Zoo Educators and the Southeast Asian Zoos Association. We keep close contact with these organisations exchanging information on endangered species conservation and continue to seek their expert advice for the betterment of animal husbandry and welfare.

Over the years the zoo has been well received by the local community and tourists. The gardens' guided visit programme for schoolchildren has been successful in allowing the younger generation to learn more about endangered animal species and to build up a strong sense of care for wildlife conservation and the importance of environmental protection.

With the continuous efforts of the department and support from the community, the zoo will continue to play an important role in animal conservation while serving as a popular leisure facility.

Chiu Yuen-ying, manager (Zoological and Botanical Gardens), Leisure and Cultural Services Department