The Malaka Zoo was first established in 1963 and is now the second largest zoological garden in Malaysia. Managed by the Department of Wildlife it maintains some 200 species on the 22 hectare forested site located some seven miles outside of the city of Malaka.
The Melaka Zoo is a member of SEAZA and is a neat well maintained collection and worthy of a visit. Though day visits are popular as is the case with most of the Malaysian animal collections it also operates as a night zoo too.
This is one of a series of zoo reports that was actually included within my travel journal ‘The Itinerant ZooKeeper’. Initially I started to extract the zoo data but found the reading was diminished by it. So look on it as a zoo travelogue. The only major edits I have done is a little censoring and to remove the Casanova exploits.
Saturday 27th May 2006
Malaka. Why do I want to spell that with two C's? Another two and a half hour bus journey. Another itinerant ant colony. I could have spent a lot longer in and around KL but I needed to move on.
Melaka looks nice. None of the high rise bustle of the past two days. Nothing much over three stories here and a sprinkling of historic buildings for good measure. The rickshaws are an offering to the god of garish floral tack that has to be seen to be believed.
My guest house is a little way out of the town centre but is not alone. There are another dozen or so on the surrounding streets. Not seedy at all though and there are some classy shops and restaurants in the immediate area. One of these specialises in Shark Fin soup. One of the shops is a dealer in birds nests, but here I learnt a lot more because most of the information is in English.
They are selling Red Bird's Nests, Mountain Bird's Nests, Gold Bird's Nests, Imperial Bird's Nests, White Cave Bird's Nests , Gold Cave Bird's Nests. They all look different and are "Completely dry. Crumble when pressed. Snap when bent." So you can see this is not just a simple soup ingredient!
After a shower and a shave I started to explore a little further and discovered that I was not 300 yards from Malaka's biggest shopping mall and multiplex cinema. So I went to see the 'Da Vinci Code'. I enjoyed it. It followed the book very closely. I wondered afterwards if I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't read the book or if I hadn't read a half dozen or so other 'Grail' books. Whatever, I liked the film and really could not see what all the (probably orchestrated) fuss was about. I was the only Westerner in a packed cinema audience. I reckon over a third of those were Muslim. All appeared to have liked the film too.
Although there has been no shortage of attractive women on my travels I appear to have hit a 'beauty cluster' here in Malaka. You can scarcely turn a corner without bumping into yet another gorgeous girl. Besides there is something very sexy about a girl who wears colourful silk pajamas to walk to work.
When I left the Cinema rain was threatening. I made it back to my guest house in time. Later it came down in buckets accompanied by thunder and lightening.
I stepped out of bed at three in the morning into a big puddle of water. My room was flooded. Still the bed was dry. I moved my backpack to higher ground and went back to sleep.
Malacca Zoo Entrance
Sunday 28th May 2006
I thought I would leave it till eight before I rose. Everyone was still asleep though. I hung about till Yati appeared and paid for another night. I then walked into town to catch a taxi to Malaka Zoo.
The Chinese part of the town is quaint in places and that which runs alongside the river put me in mind of 'Mission Impossible III'. In fact the scene could have been shot there. I passed three old churches en route. There were services going on in two of these. One of these was built by the Portuguese in 1521. There is actually a connection here with St. Francis Xavier and Goa, where I also visited a church dedicated to him. In fact I don't think anyone really knows where he really rests. There is certainly some of him in Goa but maybe some here and possibly Macao as well.
Tiger in Melaka Zoo
The Malaka zoo was quite a way out. It would have taken me all day to walk it. I suppose I would then have arrived in time for the night safari, because they do one here too.
The entrance was practical and modern. The fee was RM 7 which I thought reasonable. The zoo is longer rather than broad squeezed between a motorway on the one side and a lake at the other. Near to the entrance gate is a big events arena. The event today appeared to be a children's talent singing competition. This rather spoilt my zoo visit because I could hear it everywhere I went. I can cut most things out except the truly atrocious.
The one thing that really sticks in my mind about Malaka zoo is browse. Just about every single enclosure had fresh browse in it either as a supplementary feed or as enrichment. I was impressed. I could not even begin to identify the plant species involved but I noticed that much of it was untouched. A case of enrichment becoming routine perhaps and needing a re-think.
Do you know why Malacca (two c's here) is called Malacca? It is because the founder was resting under a Malacca tree when a Mousedeer kicked one of his hunting dogs into the river. If he had been resting under any other type of tree it could have got an entirely different name. Perhaps Banyan or Coconut (which are not bad names in their own right) but no it was Malacca and the courage of the Mousedeer which sorted the name as a memorable event. As it is the Mousedeer is now the state emblem and in Malaka zoo you will find 'Mousedeer Park'. A remarkably big cage for such a small species. They actually keep two species, the Greater and Lesser Mousedeer, and they share their enclosure Cranes, Crowned Pigeons, Muntjac and other species. An interesting set up which incorporates a raised walkway and interesting educational graphics.
Mousedeer can be found elsewhere in the collection, most notably in a segmented walk through area which has walk through for Jungle Cats and Binturong as well as your usual Lemurs. What an interesting idea.
Rhino in Malacca Zoo
There were a lot of elephants. I am unsure how many because they seemed to be tooing and frowing wherever I went. In the elephant house area there seemed to be three actual holding pens. All appeared in good condition. At least those I saw were. What I could not puzzle out was how they kept the elephants in. There appeared to be just two wires slung between posts around the perimeter. So hot wires? No, because the posts were metal. I tried to get a keepers attention but without luck. One staff member I did ask said "the elephants are so well trained that they don't even try to get out." oh yeah, pull the other one.
The zoo site is within mature woodlands which is always (well maybe not always) a plus with good roads, paths and amenities. At least two of the toilet blocks were closed down for some reason. There were disinfectant foot baths in many locations and at entrance and exit of every exhibit which held birds. The free ranging monkeys here are Dusky Leaf Monkeys which makes a change.
The signs were mainly good though some were way past their best. That for the Nyala was very odd indeed.
I thought some of the bird cages were a bit small but this was made up for by the décor and busyness. It makes all the difference.
The chimp enclosure housed, as far as I could see, two chimps. These originated from Singapore and Taronga. The viewing area had educational graphics. The enclosure itself was an okay size but needed more. It had had a fleeting visit from the Ewoks. I didn't see the housing but it looked horrible from the public side. What I really disliked about this enclosure was the moat. If I was the keeper I would not be able to move away for worry. But then I know nothing of the situation. There I go again forming opinions of things I observe in just a few minutes on a single visit on a single day.
The gibbon islands on the other hand looked fantastic. Lots of nice big trees and dense undergrowth. For all I know though these have problems too.
There were three more or less identical buildings for Reptiles, Small Mammals and Small Carnivores. They were horrible and well out of date. They could be utilised for a great number of species but not those for which they held (mostly). They were as neat and tidy and as decorated as well as they could be and someone had made a real effort to make them as good as possible. It was here that the poor Palm Civets were confined but, in spite of the inadequacies they were better off here than in so many of the collections I visited in India and Thailand. But no, these cages need a drastic and urgent re-think. Keeping Serval in there ought to be a criminal offence. It worked for the Flat Headed cats, just, and only because they had access to two cages.
And for reptiles? Yes they probably would work with a few modifications but right now fail miserably housing such huge Reticulated Pythons.
Although I believe insistence that the vivarium must be longer than the snakes length is probably unnecessary, I do believe it should come somewhere very close. We would never dream of exhibiting a mammal in something less than body length just because it could curl up. At the same time our own discomfort is so often measured in terms off "I could not stand up" or "I couldn't stretch out". I can't see why snakes should be any different. Okay, it is not a scientific way of looking at things but it is a common sense approach.
The new tiger enclosure is nice. Viewing over a moat from the front, from above and through glass from the side. More than a hint similar to that at Songkhla zoo in Thailand. There were numerous signs about saying that the tiger exhibit would 'open soon' but I did see a tiger in there. On the tiger side it was not possible to approach the glass because of electric fence. I know other places do this but it seems to sort of defeat the object. All the enclosures were heavily planted and this appeared to constrict size but at the same time so much improved appearance.
Close by there was another spanking new enclosure approaching completion with numerous holding pens attached. There were no signs as to what this was for and I couldn't figure it out.
I liked the Pig-tail Macaque enclosure. Green and spacious and so simply done. Open topped 18 strand electric fence with drilled plastic pipe used as dividers. I liked it most as this species is so often neglected and ends up in some small concrete cell somewhere.
Normally I would have liked the Small-clawed otter enclosure a lot but it had no greenery and to follow on from Taiping is a very hard act.
The Malayan Sun bear enclosure was poor but the Mandrills quite nice, the Capuchins old fashioned but busy.
So another good zooey day. Like most of the towns and cities I visit I can always find aspects or features of a collection I like. Well, perhaps not always. There are four collections I have visited since the start of the year that I have really hated. This includes the next (Melaka Crocodile Park).
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