Rethink over jaguar enclosure

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 1994, 12:00am

URBAN councillors are to reconsider spending $5.2 million on a new jaguar enclosure at the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, after learning two of the animals will be moved to China.

The council's 18-member recreation select committee approved the cash last July, following criticism by animal welfare organisations that the enclosure, at just over 100 square metres, was too small for four full-grown cats.

The new, 600 sq metre, enclosure will be about four times larger than the existing one, which was built in 1974 and houses the spotted female jaguar and black male jaguar, and two black females born in 1992.

But councillors reacted angrily when told by the South China Morning Post that the two female offspring would be sent to the Guangzhou Zoo in a few weeks, alleging a cover-up by backers of the new enclosure.

''They should have mentioned this last year before we approved the new cage,'' said Fred Li Wah-ming.

''I really hope that they haven't held this back deliberately because if they have we will all be very angry.'' Mr Li tried to bring up the matter as urgent business at yesterday's meeting of the Urban Council for members of the recreation select committee to reconsider their approval. But he learned of the jaguars' move too late for it to be put on the official agenda.

It will now be discussed after the summer break, when the recreation select committee will meet on September 14. Member Joseph Wong Shui-lai agreed councillors should reconsider.

The two female jaguars, born in April, 1992, will go to the Guangzhou Zoo as part of an exchange that will see two grey cranes coming to the Mid-Levels gardens.

The move is not likely to please many in the animal welfare community, as the living conditions for the cats in Guangzhou are not much better than in Hong Kong, local zoo officials admit.

''The enclosure there is about the same size as the one we have now,'' Botanical Gardens manager Horace Wat Chi-chuen said.