KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — Jamil Ismail spends his days surfing the Internet and riding around Kuala Lumpur on his scooter with its leopard print paint job. As ordinary as it sounds, Jamil — better known as Jamil Kucing — is quite extraordinary as he makes a living out of rescuing abandoned animals, having done so for almost two decades now.
Jamil currently owns over 100 cats, one dog as well as two monkeys — JK and Shaki — that he considers to be his kids.
The animal lover was once the personal assistant to former prime minister Tun Hussein Onn and the Tengku Mahkota of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, but he gave all that up to fully commit to his passion to rescue animals full-time.
Flanked by JK and Shaki, the two monkeys he dresses up and brings on rescues, Jamil has big dreams of bringing animal rescue into the forefront of Malaysian legislation and to create a park in place of a shelter for abandoned cats.
He talks about animals, why he loves them and what he plans to do one day. Check out his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jamilkucing.
In his own words:
- I started owning animals since I was in Standard 5. I stayed in the village so I had dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, I love animals very much. The first animal I rescued was Adik, my first cat. The mother gave birth to kittens in front of my house, in the drain. So I rescued four kittens and the mother but within a year, there was only one left because the others all died, and that was Adik. I was 19 years old at that time. I love animals, that’s all. Everything else aside, I know I will be rescuing animals until the day I die.
- So at one time, I knew I had to choose either my job or my cats. Because if I choose my job, I need to let go of my cats and if I chose my cats, I need to let go of my job. Back then when I came home from work, I’d bring my cats to Bukit Bintang to do shows. I think I’m the only one who can carry 10 cats on my scooter and then people will always take pictures. Then one tourist from England, she asked me why I let people take pictures for free. She said I was doing something unique, she’s been around the world and she’s never seen anything like it. And I thought, “Ya, that’s correct.” So then the next day I wrote a note that I’m doing charity and rescuing animals and if anyone is interested to take pictures, they can give a donation. And from there, people were giving donations.
- I cannot simply take pets that people don’t want any more because the government doesn’t support me, an NGO doesn’t support me, I do everything out of my own pocket. There is no corporate company supporting me, there is no big business supporting me. And if you say to me, “Why don’t you just ask them?” my answer is, “I’m tired of asking them already.” I’ve asked everyone from the Sultan to politicians, from politicians to the corporate companies, from corporate companies to the businessmen, from the businessmen to the ordinary person, from the ordinary person to the working person, from the working person to the non-working person. I’ve already asked them all. So now, I rely on donations from a few people. Yes, there are those who are generous.
- Last time in Panang Jaya, there was a nursery selling flowers and they also sold animals and they had a monkey in the cage. I tried to buy it but it was too expensive. And then one day when the business went bankrupt, they just released the monkey. I was coming back from KL early in the morning, and I saw the monkey sitting in the middle of the road, while the cars were passing by on either side. I was shocked, so I stopped my motorcycle and I approached him and he didn’t move. So I took him and brought him home. That was JK, he was about one year old at the time. So then I thought about it and decided to keep him. But then I was thinking ahead, sure I’m not married but the monkey needs it. So I looked for a partner. I called my ex-teacher in Perak and asked if there was anyone looking to sell a female monkey and he said yes. So I went there and bought Shaki and she’s about the same age also. And they’ve both been with me for nine years already.
- If I’m at my computer at night and I see a posting about an abandoned cat somewhere, I won’t wait until tomorrow, I won’t call anyone else, I’ll go immediately. If I know the address, even if it’s 2am, I’ll take my carrier, I’ll take JK, and I’ll go. Even if it’s in Shah Alam, USJ, Gombak, I don’t care. I’ll go right then. I need a partner and that is JK. If I go at night, JK will follow me but he won’t help me with the rescue. He’s just a bodyguard. If I go and rescue animals during the day, I’ll bring Shaki. Sometimes a cat will be hiding under the table and Shaki will help me get it out. She can go inside holes, under the table, fit in a small space.
- For the first three to four years, it was the worse raising (JK and Shaki). Those were the years that they really gave me a headache. It’s like children, yes, but 10 times worse. My whole house was destroyed, I go to Bukit Bintang and they’ll open their cage. Everything in my house is upside down, everything in the fridge they will take out, I used to have an aquarium and the fish would end up on the floor. But that was just three to four years but after that they became obedient.
- When people are angry and curse at someone else, they always call them monkey or pig. Why must you say that? As if the animals are the worse forms in the world. Why must we say that, because we look at the pig or the dog as the lowest class beings. So I dress (JK and Shaki) up because I don’t want people to see them as the lowest class beings in the world. I don’t want people to treat my monkeys as humans, even though a lot of them do, but at least respect them even if they’re animals.
- I’m Muslim but I keep dogs. And people ask me why I do that but I ask them, “Who created dogs?” And they’ll say God created dogs and when I ask them why God created dogs, they won’t be able to answer me. And then they’ll start quarrelling with me. In the al-Quran, it says you can keep the dog, it doesn’t say you can’t own dogs like they say about pigs. Of course there’s the proper way to wash yourself once you touch a dog and as a Muslim I know I cannot bring the dog into the house and hug the dog. I know I cannot but I still can keep the dog. And I didn’t buy the dog or take the dog, people dump the dog inside my house. This is the sixth dog people have dumped here.
- The Ampang city council has come and given me warnings for owning all these animals, seven times now. Because people complain. Sorry to say but some Malaysians, their attitude is if they don’t like animals then they also want their neighbours to not like animals. If they don’t like animals and they don’t want to help people who rescue animals, then they also don’t want other people to help the people who rescue animals. And because of my monkeys, PERHILITAN (Wildlife and National Parks Department) has come six times already. Not because I abuse them, but because some people just don’t like. PERHILITAN is also fed up, they’ve come and checked five, six times and found nothing. Now they don’t disturb me anymore, they just call.
- Taman Kucing will look like a zoo but it’s only for cats. Then we’ll build traditional houses, a Chinese house, an Indian house, all for the cats. And we’ll charge people but when you charge people, you need to put facilities for them to enjoy. Like a fish pond, somewhere you can sightsee, somewhere you can eat and enjoy yourself, have a birthday party or a wedding. It’s a park, it’s not a shelter. I don’t do shelters, I don’t like shelters. I’m just waiting for the land to free up for Catland, the problem now is the land belongs to other people. Even the Selangor menteri besar has agreed but there are rules so it takes time. I’m waiting for the land now but I’m also waiting for a response from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister because I’ve sent them a letter. If they respond, it’s even better. They can get good recognition and the country can get recognition.