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Oyen, Malaysia’s zoo viral orange tabby cat, brings fortune to struggling Zoo Negara

Oyen, the viral ginger cat at Malaysia’s Zoo Negara, embodies the maneki-neko, or fortune cat, bringing luck and a surge of visitors. The cat’s friendship with capybaras has made it the ‘Star of Zoo Negara,’ boosting weekend arrivals to over 3,000.

“Every day, 95% of the visitors are here just to see Oyen. He is very popular. In fact, the arrival of visitors also doubled, especially during weekends,” said the zoo’s vice president.



MALAYSIA: Oyen, the viral ginger cat that befriended the capybara rodents at Malaysia’s zoo, Zoo Negara, is a real-life fortune cat also known as maneki-neko in Japanese culture.

Oyen exercises the characteristics of maneki-neko; it has boosted the arrival of visitors to the zoo to over 3,000 people over the weekend.

The maneki-neko (beckoning cat) is a typical Japanese figurine often believed to bring good luck to the owner.

Zoo Negara vice president Rosly@Rahmat Ahmat Lana said Oyen, now dubbed the ‘Star of Zoo Negara’, has gained extraordinary popularity following its unique friendship with the capybaras over the past three years.

“Every day, 95% of the visitors are here just to see Oyen. He is very popular. In fact, the arrival of visitors also doubled, especially during weekends,” he said.

Rosly said his team intends to find a partner for Oyen so that the species has litter in the future, according to Bernama.

Rosly said the zoo will also take care of the cat’s well-being, including giving it nutritious food in addition to monitoring its health.

“Compared to before, Oyen is now docile and approachable. Our purpose is to be close to Oyen so that if one day Oyen falls ill, it will be easy for us to hold and give him treatment,” he said.

The friendship between two animals of different species has become a new attraction at Zoo Negara after a video showing Oyen, a stray cat hugging a capybara while sleeping went viral on social media.

In 2022, Zoo Negara has received nearly 600,000 visitors, surpassing its target of attracting 450,000.

Visit Zoo Negara to save the animals in the zoo

Zoo Negara had struggled with finances during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In November 2020, the national zoo’s revenue, derived mainly from ticket sales, has plummeted to zero, nearly led to the shutdown of the zoo, prompting many well-wishers to donate to keep it afloat.

It was surviving on monetary donations from the public obtained during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and paying visitors during the Recovery MCO phase. Then, Rosly was racing against time to raise more to keep Malaysia’s first local zoo afloat.

It was vital for him to ensure that his 140 staff, as well as the animals, such as giant pandas, Malayan tigers, and spotted deer, were hale and hearty during the pandemic.

The zoo, opened in 1963 and managed by the Malaysian Zoological Society, needs RM1 million each month to operate.

The zoo received various funding from government agencies, public adoption of animals (an individual could adopt an animal of choice by providing donation to the zoo).

Also, it tried all possible avenues to get assistance, among others, reaching out to the Selangor government’s tourism sector and exploring the sale of advance ticket packages to the public and tourism agencies, including sourcing new corporate sponsors.

It also received donations of vegetables and meat from farmers and butchers who could not sell their produce at that time.

Fortunately, these donations helped the zoo survive the difficult time.

Zoo Negara zoology, veterinary and Giant Panda Conservation Centre director Dr Mat Naim Ramli reportedly said that RM1.3 million given by the government covered the zoo’s operations for a month.

This was including RM689,000 to pay for panda insurance, while the rest went to animal food and medical expenses.

Then, Dr Mat Naim said the zoo only had enough emergency funds to last three months.

He said wages alone cost RM400,000, while food costs RM350,000, with utilities coming in at RM180,000.

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