Since my last blog a few days ago, the correspondence – emails and Tweets – have come pouring in to both myself and the Daily Mail from writers around the world who are concerned about the animals in the Surabaya Zoo, Indonesia, first raised in my story:
If this mass of correspondence and vows to get something done about improving conditions at the zoo doesn’t work, then nothing will.
One writer, Jan Pedley from the UK, has pointed out to me that she has found that more than 30 petitions have been started up, with a total of possibly one million signatures, pleading for something to be done about the zoo.
Many of you have offered to donate funds but as I have mentioned earlier, it’s a question of who, or what organisation, can take on the task of setting up a Trust fund and ensuring the money goes directly into refurbishing the zoo and turning it into a feature that the Indonesians themselves can be proud of, particularly with their input.
It’s most important that those of us on the ‘outside’ ensure that improvements are spearheaded by the local people – and done so with some urgency. I’ve been told by an Indonesian correspondent that a committe was set up six months ago to put the zoo in order, but when I visited there recently, resulting in my article, it was obvious that urgent action was still required.
The fact that the young elephant I referred to was chained by three legs, one of which was cut by the chains and – as a vet here in Australia has told me, in danger of becoming seriously infected – demonstrates the urgency required. Six months after the formation of the committee I saw little that resulted in my leaving the zoo with a feeling that this was a fantastic place that had made much progress from former disastrous reports.
The Surabaya Mayor, one writer has told me, ‘needs to accept help from the organisations that are offering continuing help.’ The writer, Layla Newton, added: ‘Then people like myself can donate to these organisation to help them to save animals in this zoo. ‘
Concern has been expressed that the Mayor, Mrs Tri Rismaharini, ‘needs to realise that repairing a tiny cage is not going to do anything to help the animals in there.’ And it has been suggested by Ms Newton that ‘the organisations able to help need to go to her (the Mayor) and present to her how they can help…hopefully the Mayor will see that she cannot do this alone and that she needs specialised people to come in…’
Ms Newton’s letter typifies many that I have received.
Years ago, many Western zoos that are now considered among the finest in the world, also confined their animals in cement enclosures, but they have since been transformed into wonderful, natural habitats – with lots of space and greenery – for the animals and birds.
With the Mayor’s help the Surabaya Zoo can be turned into such a feature. It has already been pointed out to me by a lady living in Surabaya, P Laksmi, that local citizens are ‘making efforts about this issue’ and ‘soon we will have a better zoo and hopefully we can get the award, just like we won the award for our park.’ This is a reference to the award for the 2013 Asian Townscape Sector for the 10,000 square meter Bungkul Park, awarded by the United Nations, which the Mayor has described as a ‘symbol of beauty and equality.’
I agree that if Surabaya can do this for a park for the people, the city has the ability to concentrate on addressing the plight of the animals and transforming the zoo into an award-winning establishment to be equally proud of.
However, such a huge task needs, in my opinion, to be undertaken with outside help – the goodwill of the world. It cannot be done overnight, of course, but a good start would be to ensure that the animals that need veterinary attention (the elephant for example) receive it. An Indonesian vet has written to me admitting that he feels ill at ease about the condition of the animals but the problem has been money.
I know several vets who would be happy to contribute their time but they need to be able to cut through red tape.
I am continuing to make contact with organisations who may, or may not, be the right ones to start collating funds and working with the local people. Architects, builders, vets…such a team cannot be assembled overnight but I am confident it will be done because you all are behind it.
I will keep you updated.

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