US-based organisation to assess Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Avila Geraldine

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Wildlife Department has requested assistance from US-based Wild Welfare organisation to conduct assessment on Lok Kawi Wildlife Park.

Department director Augustine Tuuga said this was made following complaints from tourists that the animals at the zoo were allegedly not well taken care of.

“The Wild Welfare is a member of World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. We’ve requested them to do independent assessment on the welfare of our animals.

“If it’s true that we failed to take care of the animals according to certain standards then we will do the necessary,” he said after attending the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah Chapter Industry Dialogue Session here.

Present at the MATTA dialogue session were State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew, MATTA president Datuk KL Tan, and Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais among others.

Augustine said the Wild Welfare field director Dave Morgan had arrived in the state, adding that the assessment would take three days.

Earlier, in responding to the state of Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, he said the department was currently replacing some deteriorated structure, including temporarily closing down elephant exhibition area to carry out repair work.

Meanwhile, Jamili said Sabah Parks was committed to protect its marine parks, stressing that limiting the carrying capacity to islands under its care would help reduce environmental impact.

“We take carrying capacity seriously. For Sipadan Island, we limit it to 120 divers a day and the carrying capacity for Turtle Island is set at 50 visitors per night,” he said.

He also said Sabah Parks was open to suggestion to reduce carrying capacity to island within Tunku Abdul Rahman Park off here, which has recorded 2,000 visitors a day.

In responding to a question on possibility to establish cable car at Mount Kinabalu, Jamili said it was not doable due to the visibility, altitude, and other factors.

“We are mulling on having cable car from Sugud to Inobong (in Penampang) but if that cannot be done, we are also looking at having it from the city centre to Gaya Island.

“This is still under discussion, so it will be up to the state government,” he said.

Meanwhile, Liew said Sabah needed to improve and upgrade tourist offerings and segments to attract higher yield segment.

She said key to realise the tourism industry’s full potential for job creation and income generation was to aim for sustainable growth as well as high yield over the long-term.

“We should take stock of and clearly establish what our competitive advantages are in the tourism market, and decide what new tourism experiences and products we can offer beside the existing ones,” she said.

Up to July this year, Liew noted an estimated 2.2 million tourists visited Sabah with RM4.8 billion receipts.

Last year, the tourism industry contributed RM7.8 billion to the Gross National Income of the state. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd