PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 February, 2008, 12:00am

Should the zoo's last jaguar be replaced when it dies?

Siu Fa, the jaguar at the Zoological and Botanical Gardens, most definitely should not be replaced when she dies.

Carnivores with large home ranges - and the jaguar is a typical example - have worse reactions to being caged than those that roam less widely in the wild.

I share the thinking of a growing number of conservationists and even zoo directors who believe that zoos do not offer an appropriate environment for large mammals. I think the majority of zoos also waste a golden opportunity for real education in the community and the chance to reduce animal suffering.

Visitors to Asian zoos generally only learn the size, shape and colour of an animal, rather than about its natural behaviour and habitat. Worse, they learn how miserable and barren the animals' enclosures and lives are.

Being a realist, I accept that zoos will probably be here for decades to come and, in that case, we need zoos to climb out of the Victorian era and become places of proper education that can instil a greater sense of compassion for animals in the community.

Some zoos today are at last recognising that animals, like us, have complex social, behavioural, psychological and emotional needs. For example, several progressive zoos are phasing out elephant enclosures. In 2005, Detroit Zoo eliminated elephant enclosures on humane grounds, because they could not provide adequately for this wide-ranging, social species.

Former zoo director David Hancocks now says he was mistaken in helping to design an elephant enclosure for Melbourne Zoo. While he believes it to be the best such exhibit in Australia, he says his study of elephants since has convinced him that no urban enclosure is adequate for them. He likens the enclosure to 'being locked in a hotel room with four other people, not of your choosing, for the rest of your life'.

Our rescued moon bears, for example, have intensive management and enrichment programmes that allow them to engage in natural behaviour and keep them busy and happy 24 hours a day. Even in a 10-hectare enclosure, it is a huge challenge to ensure that the bears are mentally stimulated as they would be in the wild. The 600-square-metre area now provided for Siu Fa is woefully inadequate for a large carnivore and should never be used to house another.

Jill Robinson, founder and chief executive officer, Animals Asia Foundation

Should the Guangdong wishing tree be moved to Hong Kong?

I think we should not move the Guangdong tree to Hong Kong, but transplant some stronger, younger trees to surround the old wishing tree to give it support. Although it is a mature banyan, the tree from Guangdong is too old to migrate; it is not suitable for Hong Kong because it is too big.

Two years ago I lived in Lam Tsuen, Tai Po. I saw many Hong Kong residents go to Lam Tsuen to wish for their future life or whatever; they threw a lot of oranges and joss papers on the wishing tree. I felt sorry for the tree because what these people were doing was not good for it. I was very concerned about what was being done to the tree.

For this reason, I would be concerned about the welfare of this banyan being brought into Lam Tsuen, and I think being uprooted and then replanted in the village could weaken it. As residents of Hong Kong, we should feel it is our duty to protect trees and not cause them such stress. I would like to see the old wishing tree protected by being surrounded by younger trees.

Martin Lo Siu-ki, Sha Tin

What a quick, but bad, fix - transplanting a mature banyan from across the border instead of taking time to nurture a young banyan tree in Lam Tsuen village as a replacement for the existing wishing tree.

Hong Kong people love the old wishing tree because it is part of Hong Kong. It has been with us and Lam Tsuen village for so many years.

A new, mature banyan tree from across the border is a stranger and is no replacement for the existing wishing tree. The so-called gain for Lam Tsuen village would be a loss for the community where the targeted mature banyan tree is now located. It will also likely cause damage to the banyan tree during migration. Would good fortune come if the tree itself is suffering and the community from where it came is losing it?

The old wishing tree is in a poor state because of the disrespect we have shown to it, by throwing placards and burning incense and candles. If we respect nature, we will find we are living in a better world with our wishing tree flourishing.

C. Yu, North Point

On other matters...

To all those rock fans who are put off by going all the way to AsiaWorld-Arena, past the airport, I say, go and have a great night. It is HK$100 return on the clean, fast train and the MTR and concert staff are friendly and helpful.

In fact, the promoters in Hong Kong are world-beaters, because I could never get this quality of attentive service back in England.

I attended the Linkin Park concert in November and the My Chemical Romance gig last week with my 12-year-old daughter. Both were held at AsiaWorld-Arena.

While the musicians were really amazingly brilliant, as I expected, I must comment on what a positive experience it was, especially concerning security procedures being carried out very professionally and efficiently by all the staff, both at the venue and by the staff connected to the MTR services.

The promoters really do a great job in terms of security measures (it is safe) and providing us with world-class rock acts.

The strong crowd-control men at the front were very vigilant in looking for anyone in or causing trouble, while still managing to be polite, helpful and friendly. (I jokingly asked for some earplugs, as the support band were ear-jarringly loud - and was kindly given some cotton wool as earplugs.)

Also, on both occasions even after the concert, when, fearing being unduly jostled and crowded, the MTR staff displayed efficiency in filtering the crowds calmly and politely to the appropriate exits, making the anticipated crush go very smoothly.

I well remember my diametrically opposite experiences in Britain when attending rock concerts.

Hong Kong does indeed provide an unbeatable quality of service. Well done, and thanks to Midas Promotions for bringing these wonderful bands here.

Amber L. G. Gould, Central