The President of Indonesia has dramatically stepped into the international row over conditions at the ‘world’s cruellest zoo’, following my story in the Daily Mail about the horrors there.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for ‘a solution to avoid more animal deaths,’ after learning of the outrage following details of scores dying uneccesary at the Surabaya Zoo and other creatures living in miserable, cramped and sometimes painful conditions.
During a top-level meeting with two important Ministers, the East Java Gorneror and the Lady Mayor of Surabaya, President Yudhoyono made it clear that now that he had been made aware of the conditions at Indonesia’s oldest zoo and the world’s concerns immediate action was needed.
He told the meeting that he had received many reports from the public about the poor conditions.
‘They reminded me that the deaths in Surabaya Zoo had become the focus of the international community and feared that such an issue would give outsiders the impression that we don’t care about our zoos,’ he said.
Turning to those at the meeting – East Java Governor Soekarwo, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and the Lady Mayor of Surabaya Tri Rismaharini – the President said: ‘Let’s find the best solution and when it has been formulated explain it to the public.
‘Of course, we will not forget the events that have occurred. There is always a way out or a solution.’
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world signed petitions demanding that the zoo either be closed down or the animals moved to other enclosures in the country in the wake of my revelations and those of other concerned animal rights groups – far too many to mention here.
Many other people have offered to donate money to help pay for the zoo to be rebuilt – but the Mayor objected to outside interference and insisted that the current structure should remain because the zoo, opened by Dutch colonialists in 1916, was part of Indonesia’s heritage in its current state.
But when I visited the zoo at the end of November it was clear that the conditions of nearly a century ago did not belong in a modern world – if they even belonged at the time the zoo opened.
More than 50 animals died there in the last three months of last year – and tragically more have followed this month.
I found a baby elephant shackled by three legs, one of which was rubbed raw by the chain, scores of pelicans crammed into a cage that made it difficuilt to lift their wings, grim concrete enclosures with no grass and not a keeper in sight.
This was because many had left the animals alone so they could head off to attend small shops they were running, but the Mayor has also admitted recently that several rare animals have been stolen by workers who have sold them to purchase cars or motor bikes.
In recent weeks it is known that three animals have died – a wildebeest, a mountain goat found with suspicious marks around its neck and a young African lion found hanging from cables in its cage.
As a first step in getting something done about the zoo’s deplorable conditions, the Indonesian government, at the behest of the President, now says it will officially hand full authority of the zoo to the Mayor who has been charged with ensuring substantial changes in its operation and treatment of animals.
‘This definitive licence will be given to the Mayor this week,’ Forestry Minister Zulkifli told the Jakarta Globe.
While the Mayor has been accused of being a stumbling block to improvements, she now accuses the previous caretaker team of doing little to stanch the spate of animal deaths. Not only that – she has continued to deny that my findings were accurate and even dared to insist, yet again, that photographs taken by my colleague Andrew Chant were a year old. The data on his camera card will show that they were all taken at the end of November – and I have hotel bills to prove that I was in Surabaya at the time. It’s a shame that the Mayor is playing the defensive game instead of just accepting that conditions at the zoo are shocking and that she should have done something about it a long time ago, rather than wait for the President to step in.
The former management team will now be replaced with new individuals who care for animals, said Mr Zulkifli.
‘They will oversee the maintenance of animal pens and their food, among other things. There will also be an audit in a partnership between the Mayor and Airlangga University on the issue of animal overpopulation.’
He told the Globe that if an examination found the zoo had more animals than it could adequately care for, the government would transfer some animals to other zoos and conservation facilities.
However, Governor Soekarwo admitted that improvements would take time.
‘This is no magic trick,’ he said. ‘It’s a long process. ‘But I hope the zoo’s new management will be able to provide a better environment for the animals.’
In a few days Sybelle Foxcroft of cee4life, a fighting Australian animal care organisation will be travelling to Surabaya to add to the pressure to get something done – and quickly. We wish her good fortune.

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13 Responses to The World’s Cruellest Zoo – Now the Indonesian President Has Stepped In

  1. jan pedley says:

    Richard you are a STAR*** your article sparked a world outrage, it has been the talk of twitter and facebook for weeks now. You have done something you should be very proud of, & I thank you so much for all those animals who may at last get some decent care and food. Cee4life have been amazing and the on mass visit to the zoo on the 30th will be interesting.
    It has broken my heart to see and hear of even more deaths especially the young lion recently. I just hope the Mayor finally realise she cannot lie any more, as the world is watching her every move.

    with kindest regards Jan

  2. I know this is embarrassing. but the Surabaya Zoo is our cultural heritage. Our mayor is not acting deffensif but did try to fix our zoo. I as a citizen of Surabaya know with certainty that errors in the zoo’s system going on for a long time ago. and not easy for the lady mayor to step in and resolve the issue. Lady mayor have complicated difficulties to permit over the Surabaya zoo. just take a look at this article. please support my Major to resolve the KBS’s problem.

    its not easy to read this article since it in Bahasa Indonesia…

    and that needs to be done is reshuffle not closing our zoo, please understand and Support us to the international community… Thank You…

  3. for Lady Jan. My Lady mayor did not lie. she is actually a good person and do not like the hypocrisy of the corrupt and mafia that controls our zoo. This all happened due to the officials who abused the power, like Tony Sumampau and the other. please read this article, I hope there are article in English language but not…

  4. Jamie Rasitto says:

    Agree with the first comment..corruption is the main problem here if not a culture already for majority official..I can only hope they do something better for the zoo..

  5. Ipank says:

    Personally, I hate looking at animals caged in Zoos. I’d prefer it to be closed than wasting the money that is going to poured into the project for the greedy corrupter. If they stole animal to buy motorcycle or whatever, surely the easy money from the project is too much of a temptation to resist.

  6. Megan Hunter says:

    Officials who abused power???? Tony Sumampau runs a fantastic wild animal santuary/safaric Park. He actually CARES for the animals. The mayor does not. Your mayor kicked him out. I cannot say anything negative about the mayors performance in other areas related to her job, as I don’t know about that. But I do know she is not doing anything about saving or protecting animals at the Surabaya Zoo. I would suggest you look at the Australian 4 corners documentary about your Zoo, and the lies the mayor tells. How can you defend someone who is saying a credited reporter who works for an international well acclaimed newpaper, with no ties whatsoever to the Zoo, is lying and his photos are over a year old?????? If she is trying to help the animals why did she refuse all the international offers from animal organisations and individuals to help with finances and/or relocating the suffering animals??? Why isn’t there an investigation regarding the officials at the Zoo and why have they all still got their jobs when they obviously aren’t doing them???

  7. wendy Isard says:

    i was so up set when i saw a photo of a tiger i such woeful condition im glad they are doing something about it!

  8. Laurel Hartley says:

    When I saw the picture of the lion hanging from that cable I burst into tears. Are the workers at the zoo killing the animals on purpose ? Are there actually people going to that zoo ? I hope that you will be able to give us all some positive feed back and show us pictures of the animals being moved or at least being fed. Thank you for all that you have done and bless you !

  9. Christine Olle says:

    Let’s hope the president does the right thing. This zoo is a death trap and black market for endangered animals. It has gone on too long!

  10. Fiona Ingram says:

    Great job, Richard, on blowing this whole sad story wide open. Your article has put a firecracker under the butts of everyone concerned and although many will play the blame game, there’s no going back. World focus is on the situation at the zoo and I am sure people will protest if changes are not implemented. Hopefully the poor animals that have perished will not have died in vain. Their deaths have highlighted the inherent cruelty in keeping animals caged. When I read things like keeping the old antiquated cages as part of their cultural heritage, I wonder what planet that woman is on.

  11. Marlies de Vries says:

    1st. Feed these poor creatures
    2nd Give them a better place to live

  12. Trevor says:

    This petition approaches nearly 300k signatures to close Surabaya Zoo:

  13. Mathias says:

    Dear Richard, great journalistic work. I’m with and would like to use photos you took in Tawau for an online petition. Please contact me: . Looking forward to hearing from you. Mathias

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