Malaysia's wildlife department has defended its use of puppies to trap panthers that strayed into a village.
Malaysia's Wildlife Department has defended its use of puppies as live bait to capture black panthers spotted at a Malaysian village. An animal rights groups protested the method and appealed to the government to use other means.
The department resorted to using puppies after earlier attempts to lure the panthers with a goat failed. It is "standard procedure" to use live animals, Wildlife Department Director General Abdul Kadir Abu Hashim said in remarks published on Tuesday, noting that the puppies were not physically harmed in the process.
“In this particular case, there was indication that the panther had attacked dogs [before], so we used the puppies for their barking and scent to attract the panther,” he told the Free Malaysia Today online news portal.
Why were puppies used to lure panthers in Malaysia?
Farmers in a village in southern Negeri Sembilan state were terrified after spotting a panther near their home in September.
Villagers lodged a complaint with the Wildlife Department after a panther mauled their dog at a fruit orchard in the state on 4 September, according to a Facebook post by Negeri Sembilan Chief Minister Aminuddin Harun, news agency AP reports. The post no longer appears online.
Aminuddin said the Wildlife Department immediately installed a trap for the big cat, which was believed to have come from a forest reserve nearby. The department managed to trap three panthers on 18 September, 27 September and 1 October, he said.
The operation, however, sparked controversy after local media reported that puppies were used as live bait to lure the panthers. The Stray Animal Association (Persatuan Haiwan Terbiar) slammed the move as shocking, and said it would have been more ethical for the department to use raw cattle meat. The Animal Care Society also appealed to the government to stop using live animals in such operations.
Abdul Kadir explained that panthers will only enter the trap withbait that is usually its prey. Puppies were reportedly used because the size of the trap was not suitable for adult dogs.
The trap - a cage with a separate compartment to hold the puppies - is able to swiftly release the canines once the panther is caught, he added. He said the pups were unharmed and that officials adhered to operating procedures.
Abdul Kadir did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone and email.
The Wildlife Department is investigating why panthers strayed into the village
Wildlife officials in Negeri Sembilan told local media that the first panther caught was a female weighing about 40 kilograms. The department has caught a dozen panthers in the state since the start of the year, including the the three caught in September.
Aminuddin previously said the panthers have been treated and appeared healthy, though he did not say whether they were released back into the forest. He said the Wildlife Department was also conducting aerial investigations using drones to find out why the panthers had strayed into the village.
Black panthers, found in tropical forests in Asia, Africa and Central and South America, are solitary animals that hunt at night and rarely bother people. Conservation researchers said panthers are a protected species and rarely bother people, but they face threats of habitat loss and poaching in Malaysia.
In May, an adult black panther was hit by a car and died after it strayed on to a road from a forest reserve and the driver couldn't stop in time.