Minister: Zoo Negara has 'more than enough' funds, should spend prudently

Minister: Zoo Negara has 'more than enough' funds, should spend prudently
Dec 2 -- Energy and Natural Resources Minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah believes that Zoo Negara possesses sufficient funds and has advised it to manage its finances “transparently”.

The National Zoological Gardens previously said it could only hold on until February 2021 in its present financial situation.

It had particularly appealed for government funding to help cover the high electricity and food bills incurred by its Giant Panda Conservation Centre.

In a statement today, Shamsul shared that the zoo had collected RM10.6 million in donations in the first nine months of the year. The amount included both cash donations and animal feed contributions. 

“Based on Zoo Negara’s spending records, this amount should be more than enough to cover the costs needed to feed the animals. Zoo Negara should therefore manage the donations it receives transparently and prudently,” he remarked.

The zoo previously revealed that its monthly operating costs amounted to RM930,000 - comprising RM400,000 in wages, RM350,000 in food and RM180,000 in utility bills. 

Shamsul said that the government had channelled RM1.3 million from the Wildlife Welfare Prihatin Fund to the zoo on April 10.

Zoo Negara previously said it used this RM1.3 million to cover one month of operating expenses, insurance costs for its pandas as well as animal food and medical fees. 

The minister added that Putrajaya had further given it a 15 percent discount on its monthly electricity bills for six months. 

“The ministry has never stopped helping Zoo Negara even though it is owned by an NGO and operates as a business,” he said. 

The zoo is owned by the Malaysian Zoological Society. Veterinarians who had worked at the zoo previously accused the management of alleged financial mismanagement, a claim the latter denied.

In today’s statement, Shamsul said he will be meeting with the zoo's management tomorrow to discuss improvements. 

“I will hold a meeting with the management of Zoo Negara on Thursday to discuss a mechanism to strengthen Zoo Negara’s operations, especially in terms of governance.

“This is so it will be more competitive and able to ensure that the welfare of its wildlife is always protected,” he added.

On a separate matter, the minister said that panda cub Yi Yi will be transported to China as soon as Beijing determines a date. 

“Yi Yi turned two years old on Jan 14, and was supposed to be sent to China in April but this had to be postponed because the conservation centre in China was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he explained.