MANILA – Animal welfare groups are calling for the closure of Manila Zoo after a video of a lion allegedly experiencing seizures made rounds online.
The viral incident has come under withering criticism.
Sought for comment, the zoo administration said they are keeping tabs on the lion’s health.
“We are not discounting that he had a fit, but it could be due to stress or typhoon Ompong,” said Dr. Patrick Domingo, officer-in-charge of Manila Zoo’s zoological division.
The zoo also denied that its animals are malnourished after netizens pointed out that lionesses inside the zoo were thin.
The non-governmental organization Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), in a statement posted on Facebook, has called for an investigation into the incident.
The zoo’s failure to act on it, AKF said, may be deemed a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
Other groups also alleged that animals at the Manila Zoo have long been experiencing cruelty because of the poor condition of their cages and enclosures.
“May mga standards ang zoos…Iyan ang hindi natin nakikita sa Manila Zoo. Mapanghi, mapayat ang mga hayop,” said Anna Cabrera, executive director of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).
(There are standards for zoos…And we don’t see that in Manila Zoo. The place reeks of urine and the animals are thin.)
Cabrera pointed out the cages of the lions are bare.
“Wala man lang silang malalaro o mapagtutuunan ng pansin. So ‘yun ay mental torture sa animals,” she said.
(They don’t have anything to play with or to occupy their interest. It is mental torture for animals.)
Cabrera said it is disappointing that Manila Zoo personnel are only checking on the lion days after the incident when a veterinarian should have been immediately present after the animal experienced seizures.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also stressed the negative aspects of maintaining zoos.
“Hindi naman surprising kasi ever since naman we have been receiving complaints from people na ‘yung hayop sa Manila Zoo parang suffering sila,” said PETA’s policy manager Rochelle Regodon. “Sa zoo they are incarcerated, they are in cages, they are in small spaces.”
(It is not surprising because we have been receiving complaints from people about how animals in Manila Zoo are suffering.)
Regodon said the lion's cage is too small and that zoos in general do not have the space that wild animals need.
Because of what happened, PETA and PAWS reiterated their call for the closure of Manila Zoo.
“Kasi kung hindi natin maalagaan ang mga hayop sa Manila Zoo, mabuti pang ipasara na lang ito,” Cabrera said.
(Because if they can’t take care of the animals in Manila Zoo, it is better that they shut it down.)
“Peta will always advocate for all zoos to be shut down, in particular with Manila Zoo. It’s time for them to move with the times,” she added. “There are many zoos around the world, even in Asia that are at least transferring their elephants to sanctuaries, more progressive zoos.”
PETA has been at the forefront of calls to transfer Manila Zoo’s elephant Mali to a sanctuary in Thailand. Despite PETA’s offer to shoulder the cost of the transfer, Manila Zoo refused to let go of Mali.
The group PAWS, which also supported PETA’s Mali campaign, said they might be forced to file a criminal case for neglect if nothing is done to improve the welfare of the animals at the Manila Zoo.
“So were hoping hindi naman dumating sa point na mag-file ng case. Gusto namin mag-take ng initiative ang local government na bigyan ng pag-aalaga ang animals sa Manila Zoo,” Cabrera said.
(So we’re hoping that it won’t come to a point when we would have to file a case. We want the local government to take the initiative and care for the animals in Manila Zoo.)