Thursday, December 27, 2007

Zoo Negara and Service Liability

On Dec 22, 2007, a five-year-old girl was clawed by a leopard at Zoo Negara, Kuala Lumpur. (Read the news here and here.)

According to The Star, zoo officials were puzzled how the incident could have happened as there was a barrier that separated the visitors from the leopard’s enclosure. Director of the zoo had said that they would not compensate the victim. Most people interviewed by The Star believed that the girl’s parents, rather than the zoo, should be held responsible for the incident.

I haven’t been to Zoo Negara for years, but based on the photo published in The Star, I find the safety measures less than satisfactory.

The so-called fence was merely made up of a few cables. Curious kids could easily get behind it and risk their safety. (Remember that the victim in this case was merely 5-year old.) There was a warning sign written in Malay. Given that there were foreign visitors to the zoo, one wonders why there weren’t any signs in English.

Had Zoo Negara done enough to protect the visitors? Could it escape from any liability by issuing warnings?

Let’s digress for a moment to the well-known McDonald’s coffee case. In 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, purchased a cup of hot coffee from a McDonald’s drive-through window. She spilled the hot coffee in her lap when she tried to open the lid, and suffered third-degree burns.

In 1994, a juror in Albuquerque awarded Liebeck $2.9 million. McDonald’s lost the case even though their cups warned drinkers that the contents were hot. Jurors disagreed with McDonald’s, citing evidence that the fast food giant had not cool downed its coffee even after receiving many earlier complaints.

Now back to the Zoo Negara incident. Who were responsible, the girl’s parents or the zoo?

P/S The victim's parents insisted that the girl was clawed by a puma, not the leopard as reported by the zoo. Zoo officials, as mentioned earlier, were unclear how the incident could have happened. How could they immediately issue statements without investigating thoroughly?


  1. both oso should be held responsible for the incident.

    the girl's parents should tk care the girl carefully.

    as you said...the safety measures not good.

    heard from radio,the parents sent the gr to hospital when the incident happend..but the ppl on duty said the gr not hurt seriously,so din gv the treament immedietly.the gr ned tk a long queue to wait for treament!

    service like that...haiz...

  2. christine,
    I also think both side responsible. But the zoo immediately blamed it on the parents...

  3. I think parents.. Parents should take care of their children..

  4. Both to be responsible. The barrier seems to be too simple and no adequate signage notice. However, parent in this case should take most responsiblity, isn't it?

  5. keeyit/happysurfer/玲别依依,
    If the tell the McDonald's case to Malaysians, most of them will tell you that the customer was responsible for her burn. Yet the juror ruled that the fast food giant was at fault.

    Malaysians and Americans don't think in the same way. If you come back to this story 10 years later, you may have different opinion.