KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – More than 300 stray dogs that were dumped on isolated islands turned to cannibalism after weeks of starvation, animal welfare activists said Thursday.
The plight of the dogs cast away by villagers on two small, uninhabited islands off Malaysia's western Selangor state ignited outrage after activists this week released photographs showing dogs eating the carcasses of ones that had died.
Residents of a fishing village on Pulau Ketam, another island off Selangor, caught the dogs last month and took them to the islands covered in mangroves. The villagers said they never intended to be cruel — they believed the dogs could feed on the deserted islands' wildlife — but wanted to rid their island of dogs that defecate on the streets and sometimes bite children.
A team from the Selangor Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals visited one of the islands — Pulau Selat Kering — on Monday and saw several emaciated dogs "crowded and hunched around something — they were hungrily feasting on the remains of another dog," the SPCA said in a statement.
"Nearby, a weak dog was screaming because several dogs were trying to bite her," it said.
Volunteers have so far rescued two dogs and left food for the others, said SPCA official Jacinta Johnson. They estimate 200 might have survived. Activists would also try to rescue any dogs left on the other island, Pulau Tengah.
Pulau Ketam's residents have said some dogs tried to swim back to their island, about a half-hour boat ride away, but it was not clear how many succeeded.
Efforts to save the dogs have been slow because many were fearful of people and scampered into mangrove swamps when rescuers approached, Johnson said.
Activists have persuaded Pulau Ketam's villagers not to dump any more dogs and are considering measures such as sterilization and relocation to ease problems posed by an estimated 2,000 stray dogs, the SPCA said.