The international response to my disclosure of the conditions at Indonesia’s Surabaya Zoo continues to grow and while I accept that there is a long way to go the fact that so many people care must surely bring positive results.
A locally-based animal care organisation, Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), has responded to one very caring citizen, Jan Pedley of the UK, pointing out that they have received countless complaints about the zoo over the years and since 2010 they have been asking the government to work with them to improve conditions.
However, says the animal aid network, the government has decided that it wants to work with an organisation set up by the zoo owners and ‘are not interested in improving welfare conditions for animals at all – their interest lies in profit.’ The government, says JAAN, has ‘entrusted the wrong people to control zoos.’
As an example of the continuing problems, the organisation points out that Indonesia is the last country in the world to allow travelling dolphin shows in which dolphins are transported around in containers in a bus before arriving at another town to put on a swimming and diving performance for the locals.
‘Dolphins belong in the wild and the travel shows are exposing them to extreme levels of cruelty,’ says the animal care group.
But back to the Surabaya Zoo, which has become the focus of animal lovers around the world following my article in the Daily Mail exposing the plight of the animals and birds there: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2529589/Worlds-cruellest-zoo-Shackled-elephants-starving-camels-150-pelicans-crammed-one-cage-death-toll-rises-daily.html
JAAN says that in the past week alone, reports and complaints about Surabaya Zoo, the Batam Animal Park and others – including a park where a juvenile orang-utan accidentally hanged herself – have inundated the organisation’s office.
All these problems in the zoos and animal parks ‘dubiously named conservation institutes’ could be solved if the Indonesian Association for Animal Parks was closed down and the Forestry Department was tasked with forming a new, neutral team to enforce strict animal welfare standards,’ says the animal group.
‘Most Indonesian animal parks do not fulfill even the very basic conditions necessary to care for and protect the wild creatures in their care, including providing shelter from extreme climates and weather, fresh drinking water and food, or even proper basic medical care,’ says JAAN.
The organisation adds that in 2011 the Indonesian Forestry Department developed a basic protocol for animal welfare, yet the guidelines have never been enforced and never will be as long as the current Animal Parks association is in charge.
However small but encouraging steps have been made. For example the Australian-based non-profit Cee4Life (Conservation & Environmental Education 4 Life) has been fighting hard against all odds to get improvements carried out at the Surabaya Zoo and is credited with helping to save the life of an emaciated Sumatran Tiger, which is on the list of critically-endangered animals. It was in such a poor state that the Minister of Forests, under a tsunami of voices from around the world, ordered the tiger to be taken to a human and ethical wildlife sancturay where it received immediate veterinary aid. Cee4Life says that if it had not been removed from the Surabaya Zoo, ‘there is no doubt it would be dead.’
There is also no doubt that officials who are responsible for the zoo remain on the defensive. If a management committee was set up six months ago – as I was informed, in the wake of my article, that it had been – why did I find so many distressing scenes when I visited last month? Why was that young elephant shackled by three legs with a weeping wound caused by one of the chains?
One person associated with the zoo has attempted to attack my story by asking just when I was there and questioning whether I really did speak to a former member of the management committee, who I had quoted in my article. But no matter how high the defences are, the pictures taken by my colleague Andrew Chant, who accompanied me on the zoo visit in November, tell the story of what is happening there.
One of the lame reasons put forward by the Mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, for no improvements being made to the structure of the zoo (overlooking the plight of the animals) is that changes would destroy Dutch historical heritage – the zoo was built by Dutch colonialists in 1916. So the old cages and confining pens dating back to the days when animals were jammed into such enclosures remain.
If you want to read more on this issue, it can be seen here:
Let us hope that continued international pressure changes life for the better for the miserable animals at the zoo. I still remain confident that change will come.