At Work

Caring for animals

Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, who loves animals and nature, has a mini zoo at the Anak Bukit Palace in Alor Star. This is to ensure that his various pets are being well taken care of.

Zookeeper Nur Shafaizal Zahari, 31, said Tuanku would spend about two hours every morning, from 8.30am to 10.30am, to visit the mini zoo before leaving for his office.

“As soon as he returns from the office at 4.30pm, he would come here and play with the animals again.”

Nur Shafaizal, who has been working at the zoo for the past 12 years, said Tuanku Abdul Halim once took a badly injured bird, which he found by the roadside, to his zoo for treatment.

The mini zoo, which was built on a 2.34ha site, has a pond and various types of animals, including 20 bird species, which Tuanku Abdul Halim had kept from the time they were babies.

They include parrots, peacocks, hornbills, a blue and gold Macaw, and a Cenderawasih or bird of paradise.

The mini zoo has deer, horses, porcupines, Maine Coon cats, baby crocodiles, marmosets, monkeys, rabbits and ferrets, as well as black and white swans.

The zoo also has an aquarium showcasing arapaima and arowana fish, said Nur Shafaizal.

He added, “The King is sensitive and very understanding when it comes to these animals. “Throughout my career here, I have learned so much from His Majesty on how to take good care of them.

“Tuanku used to feed the fish in the pond on a regular basis. He forbade us from throwing bread crumbs at the fish. Instead, he always puts the bread crumbs onto his palm and lowers his hand into the pond.

“The fish will then come to him. He said if we threw in the fish feed, the fish would not obey us,” Nur Shafaizal said.

He added that he was once reprimanded by the King when the latter saw him being too rough with a bird.

“His Majesty then told me that the animal shouldn’t be treated badly. They need to be loved,” he said.

The zookeeper said the King’s favourite bird was ‘Joni’, a rhinoceros hornbill.

According to Nur Shafaizal, the zoo would only be opened for visitors from schools and institutions of higher learning with permission from the Sultan of Kedah’s Office.

“A group of visitors had once arrived when the King was at the zoo. They received the royal treatment as they were personally guided and entertained by the King,” he said. – Bernama

Article extracted from The Star Online (Saturday June 2, 2012)