PENAMPANG, Nov 7 – Marayu Palanus spends most of his time multi-tasking at his workplace at the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park (LKWP).
The 55-year-old wildlife assistant officer, who is in-charge of the park’s carnivore unit, will clean cages, prepare food and feed animals under his care.
He is responsible for the clouded leopards, bear cats, sun bears, tigers, porcupines, and otters. There are two other staff in his unit.
“One of the problems LKWP is facing is that we are actually understaffed. We have to multitask to make sure we cover all our sections and finish our chores. If we are not at the park, we will be elsewhere carrying out enforcement work.
“A lot of the staff have retired. But we are doing our best in looking after the animals under our care and ensuring they get much needed attention,” he told the NSTP, recently.
Marayu has been working with the Sabah Wildlife Department since 1990. He was previously an enforcement officer attached to the Lahad Datu office before being transferred to Keningau.
In 2006, he was roped in to work in LKWP, which was officially opened to the public in February 2007. Marayu continuously attends training to become a better zookeeper.
Wildlife officer in charge of LKPW, Nurain Acheh said the park currently has 28 staff who also performed other jobs such as attending to complaints and handling human-wildlife conflicts and enforcement.
“The state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Ministry is aware of this, and we are hoping on getting new members for our workforce as most of our staff are nearing retirement.
“We can encourage a volunteer programme with proper planning. I’ve seen volunteer programmes elsewhere, which can be adapted. But the problem is we need people who are willing to work without remuneration,” she said.
LKWP was under fire recently following numerous complaints and viral photographs of questionable practices at its zoo. An online portal highlighted how the elephants were chained and not well managed.
Nurain said the Malaysian Animal Projects and Environmental Education (APE Malaysia) was collaborating with the LKWP to improve wildlife welfare standards.
She said the non-governmental organisation was among various groups that are collaborating with the park.
“We have university students coming here to do practical training from time to time and occasionally, we do have non-governmental organisations assisting us. We have a tour company doing corporate social responsibility to help finance two staff,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the issue was being looked into and a budget was being drawn up to address it. NSTP’s recent visit to LKWP saw new hammocks set up in the orang utan enclosure.
Enclosures for the elephants and clouded leopards, however were temporarily closed for upgrading work. There were 15 elephants in LKWP.
The park is also improving sun its bear area and the ponds in all of the animal enclosures.