The animals at Indonesia’s largest zoo – many of them critically endangered – all could be dead within five years unless strong action is taken to change the culture of neglect and corruption that permeates the facility, a zoo official said Saturday.
Hundreds of animals die every year at the Surabaya Zoo, and others suffer from hunger, stress and overcrowding, according to Tonny Sumampouw, the chairman of the country’s zoo association who has been tasked with overseeing the facility after the government took it over earlier this year.
Sumampouw said the 94-year-old facility, built under Dutch colonial rule on a 37-acre (15-hectare) plot of land that currently holds 4,200 animals, has tallied 300 deaths a year over the past decade, including dozens of Komodo dragons, jaguars, bisons and Bali starlings.
In recent days alone, a17-year-old African lion and 6-year-old Australian kangaroo died, he said. Also at great risk are 14 rare Sumatran tigers being kept in dirty, cramped cages and 20 Komodo babies in intensive care.
Sumampouw, who is running the zoo as a caretaker until a new director is named, blamed bad management and corruption for the problems.
“My assumption is that all those animals will definitely disappear in the next five years unless there are efforts to reorganize how the zoo is managed,” Sumampouw said.
Many employees have been caught stealing meat intended for the animals and sometimes, in the case of rare species, stealing the animals themselves, he said.
He said fixing the problems “will be a big challenge” for the new boss.
A spokesman for the zoo’s old management team, Agus Supangkat, said while an average of 25 animals die at the facility every month, most succumb to old age or other natural causes. He said the animals are properly fed and cared for and that hygiene is well-maintained, but acknowledged that some animals die from stress, especially the big cats.
“This zoo is very old and its cages outdated,” he said. “They are like prison cells, putting stress especially on the big mammals.”