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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World’s Cruellest Zoo – Latest

On 05/01/2014, in Animals, News, by admin
Concrete and Wire - Nothing Much Has Changed at Surabaya Zoo Since it was Built in 1916. Picture by Andrew Chant

Concrete and Wire – Nothing Much Has Changed at Surabaya Zoo Since it was Built in 1916. Picture by Andrew Chant

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:
http://cee4life.org/animal_aid.php
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.

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A lone mosque remains after the 2004 tsunami. Picture: AP

For most of us, the terrible 2004 Boxing Day tsunami was a disaster that we reflect on as the years drift by – but for a number of mothers in Indonesia every day is a day to remember.

Six years after the tidal wave claimed 230,000 lives in 12 countries, those mothers cling to hope that their lost children are still alive.
They believe that the youngsters were swept ashore many miles from their homes and were then adopted by families who had lost their own children.
Among the hopefuls is a 43-year-old mother who today lies in a hospital with severe injuries, suffered when a mob of villagers attacked her as she tried to interview a girl she believed was her missing daughter.
The sad story of Titik Yuniarti’s search for her daughter Salwa, who was aged six when she was swept from her arms when an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered the tsunami, typifies the search that scores of other mothers have embarked on in the hope of finding their lost loved ones.
Titik said from her hospital bed in the Indonesian region of Aceh, which was the most badly hit area among all the countries from Sri Lanka to Indonesia and Thailand, that she had a dream telling her that her daughter had been found alive and was with a family in the town of Langsa.
With a friend, she travelled for six hours along a bumpy coastal road before going from school to school showing teachers and students photos of her daughter.
‘After three days, we finally met a girl named Febby,’ Titik said, her face covered in bruises, an intravenous drip in her arm.
‘She had the same tumble of black hair, a freckle over her lip. Some people even told me she’d lost her parents in the tsunami and had been adopted.
‘I was still afraid to believe it, but in my heart I thought “it’s her – it’s really her.”‘
But when she and her friend returned to a village where they had met the girl, a mob was waiting for her and accused her of wanting to abduct the 12-year-old to sell her organs.
‘Some people shouted “Hang her! Hang her!’ and others set alight the building where we had been staying,’ said Titik.
Then the mob beat them with sticks and rocks before police arrived and arranged for them to be taken to hospital.
The girl’s mother, Ainun Mardiah, said she would be happy to take a DNA test to prove that the child is her’s, not Titik’s.
Titik’s desperate hunt for a daughter who was lost in the tsunami is just one sad case among many, say officials of Indonesia’s Social Ministry office.
‘A government programme that reunited nearly 1,600 children with their parents closed in 2006,’ said Farida Zuraini, a ministry spokeswoman. ‘We offer assistance as needed but the number of requests has dwindled.’
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As we prepare to remember the 230,000 people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami five years ago, a tragic aftermath of that terrifying event has emerged in Indonesia.
A 10-year-old boy whose parents died when that giant wave smashed down their home has been charged with savagely murdering his adoptive mother after she allegedly taunted him about having no real mother and father any more.
The boy, who has not been named, comes from the island of Nias, which lies off the south west coast of Aceh, the worst-hit region of the tsunami, described as ‘ground zero’, where more than 170,000 people died on December 26, 2004.
It has not been revealed how he survived or the exact circumstances of how his parents died, but he was eventually adopted by Etty Rochyati, who was aged 50 when she took him into her care.
But, Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection has established, the relationship between the orphaned boy and his new mother was far from loving.
The commission has learned from police that the boy had told them his adoptive mother had threatened to kick him out of the house if he did not obey her.
She is said to have taunted him with words like: ‘Don’t you know that you don’t have a mother and father any more?’
Etty Rochyati has been found dead in a ditch near her house in Ciracas, East Jakarta, with multiple wounds to her head, having possibly been beaten with a blunt instrument, and a stab wound to the stomach.
Police who questioned the boy claim he told them he had killed her because she had taunted him about being orphaned after the tsunami.
Now the child protection commission is fighting to save the boy from a lengthy prison sentence, claiming it is ‘inappropriate’.
Mr Arist Sirait, secretary general of the commission, said that if the boy was formally accused, the charge should be under a law relating to ‘violence leading to death’ which carries a sentence of 10 years but which allows minors to serve only a third of that sentence.
Mr Sirit said police investigators had failed to consider the mistreatment the orphaned boy had received from his adoptive mother as she raised him following the death of his parents in the tsunami.
‘What the boy did may be seen as self-defence against abuse and was not intentional,’ he said.
The boy, he said, had been traumatised following the tsunami and the authorities were not dealing with a 22-year-old man ‘but a 10-year old who is unstable and still has a long life ahead of him.’
The child’s future now rests in the hands of judges of the East Jakarta Court and relatives of the boy’s adoptive mother.

The Indian Ocean tsunami claimed 230,000 lives

The Indian Ocean tsunami claimed 230,000 lives

As we prepare to remember the 230,000 people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami five years ago, a tragic aftermath of that terrifying event has emerged in Indonesia.

A 10-year-old boy whose parents died when that giant wave smashed down their home has been charged with savagely murdering his adoptive mother after she allegedly taunted him about having no real mother and father any more.

The boy, who has not been named, comes from the island of Nias, which lies off the south west coast of Aceh, the worst-hit region of the tsunami, described as ‘ground zero’, where more than 170,000 people died on December 26, 2004.

It has not been revealed how he survived or the exact circumstances of how his parents died, but he was eventually adopted by Etty Rochyati, who was aged 50 when she took him into her care.

But, Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection has established, the relationship between the orphaned boy and his new mother was far from loving.

The commission has learned from police that the boy had told them his adoptive mother had threatened to kick him out of the house if he did not obey her.

She is said to have taunted him with words like: ‘Don’t you know that you don’t have a mother and father any more?’

Etty Rochyati has been found dead in a ditch near her house in Ciracas, East Jakarta, with multiple wounds to her head, having possibly been beaten with a blunt instrument, and a stab wound to the stomach.

Police who questioned the boy claim he told them he had killed her because she had taunted him about being orphaned after the tsunami.

Now the child protection commission is fighting to save the boy from a lengthy prison sentence, claiming it is ‘inappropriate’.

Mr Arist Sirait, secretary general of the commission, said that if the boy was formally accused, the charge should be under a law relating to ‘violence leading to death’ which carries a sentence of 10 years but which allows minors to serve only a third of that sentence.

Mr Sirit said police investigators had failed to consider the mistreatment the orphaned boy had received from his adoptive mother as she raised him following the death of his parents in the tsunami.

‘What the boy did may be seen as self-defence against abuse and was not intentional,’ he said.

The boy, he said, had been traumatised following the tsunami and the authorities were not dealing with a 22-year-old man ‘but a 10-year old who is unstable and still has a long life ahead of him.’

The child’s future now rests in the hands of judges of the East Jakarta Court and relatives of the boy’s adoptive mother.

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