Recent analysis of donations made to Zoo Negara via e-commerce platforms show that Malaysians are much more inclined to support imported animals over native species.
Malaysians give more money for “exotic” imported animals like cheetahs and pandas than local ones like orangutans and sun bears.
“It seems like the exotic animals people see in movies and National Geographic documentaries are better received by Malaysians,” Andrew Sebastian, a well-regarded naturalist, and president and founder of Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia, told MalaysiaNow.
As an example, he cited Liang Liang and Xing Xing, two giant pandas imported from China at a cost of RM25 million. The pair were all the rage when they arrived back in 2014, attracting huge, curious crowds every day.
Pandas and other imported animals being given so much care and support in Malaysia is nothing new.
“It looks like it’s sexier for kids as well as grown-ups to be connected to the pandas, the lions, more than our own local species because awareness is pretty low in terms of our appreciation for local wildlife,” Sebastian said.
Coming from different climates and often with unique dietary needs, imported animals are welcomed into the country’s zoos despite being difficult to look after.