The Worst Zoo in the World Keeps Going Downhill

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Reports of animal deaths, abuses and illegalities continue to pile up at Indonesia’s Surabaya Zoo, which has been dubbed the “zoo of death” and could be the world’s worst zoo.

According to zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat, at least 105 animals have died at Surabaya Zoo — Indonesia’s largest zoo — since July 2013. But the number of deaths isn’t the only concern. It’s how the animals are dying.

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Last month, an 18-month-old lion named Michael was found hanged in his cage after he apparently got tangled in a cable that was used to open and close the cage’s door.

Just a few days ago, a Komodo dragon died for as-of-yet unknown reasons. Supangkat said an autopsy has been conducted.

Last week, a clearly malnourished white female tiger named Chandrika died.

“She had problems with her tongue and lost some of her teeth because of her old age,” Liang Kaspe, the zoo’s operations director, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday. “Food often fell out of her mouth because of her damaged tongue.”

But the Globe was informed by a source who wished to remain anonymous that the tiger had an infection that had not been properly treated. The infection spread to the tiger’s mouth.

“Chandrika was not taken care of by a medical team as required,” the source told the Globe. “She needed emergency care.”

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Supangkat claims that Chandrika died due to pneumonia.

“We’re also looking for other possible causes to strengthen the diagnosis,” he told the Globe. “We have sent her body organs to a lab at Airlangga University [in Surabaya] to get the right diagnosis.”

The situation is so dire at Surabaya Zoo that the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has written two letters to Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the past couple of months. This is a very unusual step, as WAZA has itself been criticized for not appropriately acting on animal abuses, such as the dolphin culling ongoing in Japan.

WAZA is concerned that the situation is “becoming more than a single zoo issue” because the reputation of all zoos comes into question when abuses are reported.

Surabaya’s mayor, Tri Rismaharini, is now managing the zoo.

Zookeeper Tony Sumampau thinks improvements are now possible, but also shared worrisome doubts.

“As long as they change most of the staff and the management, and they have a professional to help them run the zoo, I think it can happen,” he told BBC News.

“But this is a very difficult political decision. If the mayor wants to spend money, she can rebuild the zoo. But she is not going to be a mayor forever, and that is why most government zoos in Indonesia are not in good condition.”

To keep up-to-date on efforts to improve the zoo, follow Surabaya Zoo Animal Welfare Action on Facebook.

Credt: Sakurai Midori

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