Registered Charity in England & Wales No.1165941

Enriching Animal Welfare in Sabah, Malaysia

An update from Simon and Sarah's fieldwork in Sabah, Malaysia.

Enriching Animal Welfare in Sabah, Malaysia

In August, Wild Welfare’s Director, Simon Marsh, and Animal Welfare Field Manager, Sarah Bonser-Blake, journeyed to Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Sabah, Malaysia. This was their first visit to the wildlife park, though they were very familiar with the facility through the work of Wild Welfare (U.S.), who have been actively involved in improving the welfare of the elephants at the park.

The primary objective of this trip was to elevate the welfare standards of the diverse array of animals residing at Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. Over a span of five days, Simon and Sarah worked to immerse themselves in the daily operations, connecting with the keepers, observing the animals, and understanding the complex management challenges faced by the animal caregiving team.

The visit also included a 40-minute presentation by Sarah, who spoke about animal enrichment. She advocated for the implementation of cost-effective enrichment techniques, focusing on readily available materials such as sand and bamboo. The presentation featured several informative videos, underlining the significance of providing animals with choices, ensuring their comfort, and granting them control over their environment. The presentation also delved into promoting natural behaviour in captive animals. To ensure the accessibility and longevity of these concepts, Wild Welfare’s enrichment roadmap, translated into Malay, was available to the team.

Simon and Sarah also conducted practical training sessions with the staff, working with various animals, including sun bears, binturong, parrots, and hornbills:

Sun Bears:
Our work with the sun bears focused on species appropriate enrichment, choice and control for the bears and access to their house, as well as general management of the bears, as these animals have to time share their enclosure with other groups of sun bears. To start the discussion around enrichment, the team helped introduce sand piles and bamboo browse to the animals, with plans to conduct recall training in the future; this will help to improve the time sharing and shifting of the bears.

The group of binturong were identified as animals which would benefit from enclosure improvements. These enhancements aim to offer them more opportunities for climbing, along with safe spaces that allow them to retreat from both their fellow residents and the gaze of visitors. Furthermore, the binturongs were included in the practical training session on enrichment. They had the opportunity to explore arboreal leaf piles, and their food presentation was thoughtfully altered.

Hornbills, Macaws, Cockatoo, and Eclectus Parrot:
Recognising the importance of promoting natural foraging behaviours and minimising the reliance on traditional food bowls, the team adjusted the food presentation for these species. They also introduced different techniques for this presentation, including natural kebab-style feeders. Additionally, the eclectus parrot underwent a change in living conditions. Previously housed on the floor within a shared enclosure, the parrot transitioned to a more comfortable space featuring perches. This shift was made to reduce the parrot’s negative social interactions, as it had shown signs of distress whilst residing with a cockatoo. The new enclosure offered the eclectus parrot a less stressful and more comfortable environment.

Orangutans and Proboscis Monkeys:
Although the visit did not entail extensive engagement with these animals, they remain a significant part of Lok Kawi Wildlife Park’s long-term welfare focus. During this visit, Sarah and Simon conducted basic enclosure assessments, which hopes of expanding this into a more strategised approach in the future.

Elderly Tiger and Clouded Leopard:
Along with the orangutans and proboscis monkeys, an elderly tiger and clouded leopard received basic enclosure assessments during the visit. However, these assessments will be expanded in future work, and as a part of the park’s long-term welfare enhancement plans.

This visit represents an ongoing, long-term relationship between Wild Welfare and Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. The team will continue to work with the park, providing continuous support, guidance, and advice to the dedicated animal care staff. This initiative aims to establish sustainable management changes that remain even when external guidance is not present, ensuring that animal welfare is consistently improved.

As Sarah states, “After spending many years hearing updates from this facility, it was fantastic to finally visit and get involved with the animal care team. The enthusiastic response to the enrichment workshop was brilliant, and I’m glad that everyone seemed inspired by the ideas we discussed.”

Our long-term support for Lok Kawi Wildlife Park embodies Wild Welfare’s dedication to enhancing the welfare of captive wild animals worldwide, and we look forward to continuing our work with the facility into the future.


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Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact Wild Welfare on

Wild Welfare is a global organisation committed to improving animal welfare for captive wild animals. By uniting the world’s leading zoos, zoo associations and animal welfare organisations, we build trusting partnerships that help provide long-term solutions to critical wild animal welfare issues.

Our vision is a world where every captive wild animal is able to thrive and live a good life. Find out more at Registered charity in England (no.1165941).