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Suspected poisoning spree kills sun bear, racehorse at Malaysian zoo

A female sun bear died after eating a banana laced with a white powder. An autopsy on the racehorse is planned for Monday.

Poison sun bearEnlarge
A female sun bear has died after eating a banana laced with a white powder at the Malacca Zoo. A 17-year-old male racehorse was also found dead Monday of suspected poisoning. Visitors have been allowed to bring in food for the animals but the zoo has now changed the policy. (CLEMENS BILAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A Malayan sun bear and a racehorse named Basket have died of suspected poisoning at the Malacca Zoo, officials told the New Straits Times.

A zoo veternarian, Dr. Zubaidah Kamarudin, told the newspaper that an autopsy on the results on the female sun bear revealed that it had eaten a banana tainted with a white powder.

"At around 5 p.m. on Sunday, a visitor told a member of zoo staff that a sun bear was behaving oddly. When the zookeeper went to check on the animal, we found it foaming at the mouth and suffering from seizures," she said.

The Malaysian Insider reported that the bear died five minutes after being found.

"The poison used was very strong; it caused severe damage to the sun bear's digestive system and we were unable to save it," Dr. Kamarudin said.

A 17-year-old male racehorse was also found dead of suspected poisoning at 7 a.m. on Monday.

Samples of the horse's stomach contents will be sent to the chemistry department where an autopsy was scheduled for later Monday, reported the Malaysian Insider.

Zoo staff made thorough checks of all animals and their exhibits after the two incidents, and found more evidence of suspected poisoning.

"During the checks, we found a plastic bag in the chimpanzee exhibit containing a banana, an orange and sugar cane, all with the same white powder. Luckily, no animals had eaten it," Dr. Kamarudin said.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam made a visit the zoo on Monday. He called the suspected poisonings "cruel and irresponsible" and said that it was possible a visitor was to blame.

The Malacca Zoo normally allows visitors to bring food from outside the zoo to feed the animals, but Seri told the newspaper that the policy will change immediately.

"Zoo management have decided that visitors are not allowed to bring outside food to give to the animals and must purchase food supplied by the zoo that has been deemed safe."

"Additionally, I have suggested to zoo management to install closed-circuit television cameras around the zoo to closely monitor activities within the compound," he said.