The death of a giraffe with a thick wad of plastic wrappers found in its belly drew attention once again to poor conditions in the Surabaya Zoo. Conditions remain bad in the zoo that once had the most diverse collection of animals in the region.
According to The Wichita Eagle, the giraffe that died was a 30-year-old male named Kliwon, the only giraffe in the Surabaya Zoo in East Java, Indonesia. It died after years of feeding on plastic trash thrown into its pen by zoo visitors. The animal was found to have an 18 kilogram ball of plastics in its stomach.
AP reports that lack of funding, planning, uncontrolled breeding and suspicions that some of the staff are involved in illegal trafficking of wildlife animals has turned life in the zoo into a nightmare for its animals. According to AP, the tigers are emaciated and the pelicans so tightly packed in their pens that they cannot stretch their wings. Rare species such as the Komodo dragon and endangered species such as organutans are kept in unsanitary cages.
This is not the first time the zoo is under spotlight for the poor conditions in which its animals are kept. The Surabaya Zoo, also known as Kebun Binatang Surabaya (Surabaya Animal Park), or simply "Bonbin," built during Dutch occupation, has in the past received complaints about its animal management standards from activist groups such as the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN). In 2010, The Jakarta Globe dubbed the zoo the "Surabaya Zoo of Death."
The Jakarta Globe in 2010, reported several of the animals in the zoo were in poor health, including a bison, camel, white tigress, black beer, Komodo dragons and a Sumatran tiger. The lion and the white tigress had problems with their hind legs, and the bison suffered from lung infection and eye problem. The black bear had a tumor and the Sumatran tiger suffered from wounds to their legs, while the Komodo dragons were aging. A zoo official Agus Supangkat, then reported that Kliwon, the giraffe, was sick. He said: "He’s suffering from depression after living alone in a cage for four years.”
The country's Forestry Ministry revoked the zoo's licence in August 2010, following several animal deaths, including the rare Sumatran tiger, African lion, wallaby, Komodo dragon, babirusa cub, Bawean deer, and crocodile. An investigation found that negligence was to blame for most of the deaths.
According to AP, high mortality rates as high as 25 out of 4,000 every month, focused global attention on the zoo.
A former zoo keeper, Ian Singleton, who runs a conservation program on Sumatra Island, commented: "This is extremely tragic, but of course by no means surprising in Indonesia's zoos, given the appalling way they are managed on the whole."
Tiger, Surabaya Zoo, Indonesia
The Jakarta Globe reported that Tony Sumampau, a veteran zookeeper was appointed by the Ministry of Forestry as head of the zoo’s interim management. According to AP, he achieved some success, bringing down mortality rates to about 15 per month. But now after the death of the giraffe, Sumampau has expressed frustration at the funding of the zoo, saying that the zoo needs total renovation. He suggested that the zoo be privatized or some of its animals transferred. He told The Jakarta Globe that pneumonia, lack of food, broken down cages and poorly trained staff had caused the deaths at the zoo. He said: “If the zoo’s condition continues like this, I predict the animals in the zoo will all die."
AP reports that overcrowding in the zoo is caused by uncontrolled breeding because the zoo cannot afford contraceptive measures and it does not have enough pens to separate the males from the females.
Zoo curator Sri Pentawati, said that with about 16 Sumatran and four Bengales tigers, there are too many tigers at the zoo.
Ramat Shah, who heads the country's National Zoo association, said the problem with Subraya is internal rift. He alleged a longstanding feud in the zoo between two staff factions loyal to two men who had clashed over headship of the zoo several years ago. A case of cyanide poisoning involving a Javan warthog in January is believed to have resulted from the feud between the two factions.
Sumampau admitted to rampant indiscipline among the staff and accused them of stealing three young Komodo dragons for the exotic pet trade. He also accused the staff of diverting meat meant for tigers to the local meat market.