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Johor Zoo

Updated on July 27, 2011

The Johor Zoo was first established in 1928 is reputed to be the first zoo in Asia. Originally the private collection of the King of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar, it was handed over to the state in the 1960 and first opened to the public in 1962.

Johor is the Malaysian State closest to Singapore.

The zoo today is open from eight in the morning till 6 in the evening. It is relatively easy to find and a leisurely stroll along Gertak Merah Road will get you there. It is surprisingly cheap to go inside. Adults just RM2 and children RM1. Today the collection covers approximately 5 Hectares and is reputed to hold around 100 species.

Johor Zoo Promotional Film

The report below is based on an extraction from The Itinerant ZooKeeper and as such also contains some personal comments and observations on other things.

Wednesday 31st May 2006

I have had a number of emails over the months asking me what I miss most when I am travelling. To be frank, practically nothing. I have had to develop an entirely different sort of mindset and providing that remains intact there is no problem. I do miss my children, a lot, and my friends, but most of all I miss hugs. I'm not talking about sex here. I'm talking about the actual physical embrace from someone who loves you unconditionally. Or perhaps someone who just likes or cares for you. There is, I feel, a need for 'touch'... tender touch. It doesn't have to be human. Stroking a cat or dog is part the way there. That’s unconditional if you don't have food on your plate. At the end of the day though it is that from people. I have met a few on my journey. I now care for some a lot. I love others. And I do miss their hugs.

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So this morning I walked along the front to visit the infamous Johor zoo. Why infamous? Well just because nobody I have ever spoken too has ever had anything good to say about the place. The problem with that sort of introduction is that you have difficulties not being prejudiced before you arrive. I will always try and keep an open mind. There is at least two sides to every story and so I am prepared to change my mind according to new evidence. Best of all though is first hand experience .

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Johor zoo is the oldest zoo in Malaysia. Originally the private collection of the Sultan of Johor. Built in 1928 it first opened to the public in 1930's and was eventually handed over to the state in 1960. I would imagine that some of the original cages are still standing. The others probably date from around the 1960's. Interestingly there is a little bit of new building going on. Early days yet but it looked to me like they are going to be along the same lines of the archaic designs presently there.

Was there anything I liked here? Well I thought the Mousedeer enclosure was passable and if you like Chimpanzees in pits then that could with minor modifications be acceptable. But no, on the whole this zoo was crap. What I cannot understand is why there has not been input from Zoo Negara and Zoo Taiping. Johor is a state zoo, attached to a big and prosperous city (a city considering building a Disneyland). It deserves a zoo of quality. It only cost RM 2 to get in and RM 1 to get in the Reptile house and though fairly busy it is not going to even pay wages with the gate.


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The zoo site is a good one and even some of the cages and enclosures are quite nice. Its just that at present they are holding the wrong species, they need re-wiring and a lick of paint. The other cages need tearing down or drastic modification. There are quite a few enclosures which would benefit from a good clean as well. The most modern construction here was the children's playground. Quite nice too. Next to this were chained three infant monkeys for children to pet. There didn't appear to be any active supervisor but then I didn't see anyone teasing. Elsewhere there were four month old lions out on chains for people to pat also.

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The Lion, Tiger, Sun Bear, Chimpanzee and Orangutan enclosures were all connected as part of a complex. All these were big circular 'pits' viewable from above and through double bars below. They weren't nice but they weren't bad. Some had mature growth in them and the size really made the difference. What really spoilt them was the huge inward turning spikes running along the top of all walls. Just removing these would make a huge difference. A double strand of electric fence could serve the same purpose but is probably unnecessary in any case. It was at these enclosures that I saw one of the most horrific sights I have seen in any zoo. The Orangutan (I don't know how many there were) and a couple of Tigers were alternating the same pen. The Tigers were out and a big male Orangutan was locked away. Well most of him was. He had one arm full length into the tigers. Happily they were taking no notice. For all I know, and is likely the case, this is the norm.


Lion wonders why

There were lots of tigers. At least four pens with them in. Lions in at least three. Black Leopards, Leopard Cats, Golden Cats, Malayan Tapir, Eagles, Vultures, Deer, Greater Flamingos, Hornbills, Asian Elephants, Crocodiles, Macaques, Gibbons, Langurs, Ostrich, Emu, Cassowary, Greater Bird of Paradise and much more. It is not a small collection. It covers 12.6 ekar (I imagine that is Malayan for acres).

The reptile house, which I paid extra to enter, was a zoo in itself and held a variety of other species. These included a raccoon, binturongs, owls, eagles, a gibbon and a three legged cat. Apart from the animals there was an interesting display of traps and a multitude of newspaper clippings. The reptile keeper in charge of this set up said he had had fourteen years experience. He was obviously someone who cared, it was just that his knowledge was limited. I felt that this may be the case with all the animal staff here. They just didn't know any better. Couple this with lack of funds and totally inadequate housing then this is a collection going nowhere.

As I was walking down towards the elephants there was a loud crack and a big branch snapped off a tree some twenty feet away. Strange as there was no wind and it wasn't raining and no bouncing monkeys. Strange too as this is the second time this year that this has happened to me (you may recollect the close call in Trivandrum zoo, India). Maybe it is written somewhere that this is how I will go.

Walking back to the town I could see the causeway and Singapore on the other side. This was jammed up with traffic. Perhaps this is why I thought I would walk to Singapore tomorrow. There are lot of collections I want visit over there.

More on Malaysian Zoos

You can read more about Malaysian Zoos in THE ZOO HUBS

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Submit a Comment
  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks Good Guy - I liked Taiping Zoo (though I never saw behind the scenes) and Zoo Negara was none too bad though there were activities I was none to keen on. I saw some bad places too but would not condemn all Malaysian Zoos on the poor showing of a few or vice versa.

  • Good Guy profile image

    Justin Choo 

    8 years ago from Malaysia

    Hi Peter,

    I think zoos in Malaysia stink mainly because of the calibre of the people in charge. Most wortkers if not all, work just for a living ,that's all.

    In the long run, the poor animals suffer.

  • Peter Dickinson profile imageAUTHOR

    Peter Dickinson 

    8 years ago from South East Asia

    Hello, hello, - I am sure it would be a world you would enjoy. I honestly believe that everyone would get more out of their local 'good zoo' if they visited every week or every two weeks. The staff get to know you as do the animals and vice versa. It opens up a whole new wonderful world. Johor zoo....not very good I'm afraid!

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    Great hub and very informative about a world I haven't got a clue.


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