Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nightmare zoo conditions exposed, Indonesia

The tigers are emaciated and the 180 pelicans packed so tightly they cannot unfurl their wings without hitting a neighbour. Last week, a giraffe died with a beachball-sized wad of plastic food wrappers in its belly.

That death has focused new attention on the scandalous conditions at Indonesia's largest zoo. Set up nearly a century ago in one the most biologically diverse corners of the planet, it once boasted the most impressive collection in Southeast Asia.

But today the Surabaya Zoo is a nightmare, plagued by uncontrolled breeding, a lack of funding for general animal welfare and even persistent suspicions that members of its own staff are involved in illegal wildlife trafficking.

The rarest species, including Komodo dragons and critically endangered orangutans, sit in dank, unsanitary cages, filling up on peanuts tossed over the fence by giggling visitors.

"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," said Ian Singleton, a former zookeeper who now runs an orangutan conservation program on Sumatra island. Read More