KUALA LUMPUR - Zoo Negara, which has endured a lot of hardship this year due to the financial devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, has been hit with another setback — the death of a Malayan tiger cub.
The New Straits Times has reliably learnt that a female cub, Melur, was found drowned in the zoo's tiger enclosure's moat in March.
Melur's birth, and that of her brothers Wira and Hebat, on Labour Day last year was an occasion for celebration and had shone a spotlight on the country's tiger conservation efforts.
Their births were hailed as a significant success for the zoo's in-captivity breeding endeavours.
Melur, Wira and Hebat were the offspring of Zoo Negara's Kayla and Jati.
The three cubs were named by Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the wife of the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Siti Hasmah is a staunch advocate of tiger conservation.
While details are scarce, it is understood that Melur's death was an accident.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall, which had contributed towards the zoo's tiger conservation efforts last year following the birth of the cubs, confirmed that it was informed about Melur's death.
"We were only told that one of the cubs died due to drowning," said a City Hall official.
Sources familiar with the issue told the NST that the zoo's staff were devastated by the tragedy.
The NST has contacted Zoo Negara representatives to obtain more details of the incident.
The wild population of the Malayan tiger, regarded as a national icon, has been dwindling year by year.
An estimated 3,000 are believed to have roamed the forests of Malaya in the 1950s, but by 2014, their numbers were estimated to have fallen to about 250.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species has since moved the Malayan tiger's status from "endangered" to "critically endangered".
The loss of Melur capped a terrible year for Zoo Negara.
Early this year, the Movement Control Order that was implemented to curb Covid-19 infections led to financial woes for the national zoo.
Zoo Negara is run by the Malaysian Zoological Society and depends largely on income from entrance fees for funding.
The zoo needs about RM1 million a month for operational costs, including for animal care, staff wages and utilities.
Media coverage of the zoo's dire financial straits have led to donations from the public as well as government assistance to keep the zoo afloat.
The zoo has appealed to the government to consider allowing it to reopen to the public.
Source: New Straits Times