101 East

Cry of the Tiger

Neglected and mistreated, endangered animals are dying inside Indonesia's disease-ridden Surabaya Zoo.

Last updated: 05 Feb 2014 11:31
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Indonesia’s endangered animals are unsafe both in the wild and in zoos [Al Jazeera]

This film will not be available to watch online, but it can be seen on Al Jazeera from February 6, 2014, at the following times: Thursday: 2230 GMT; Friday: 0930 GMT; Saturday: 0330GMT; Sunday: 1630 GMT.

Just skin and bones, Melani the Sumatran Tigress teeters towards death and then somehow stumbles back to life.

She has become a tragic and disturbing example of what can happen to a majestic animal in the supposed care of humans.

Melani should have been safe. Unlike tigers in a jungle habitat trying to survive the threats of poachers, development and environmental destruction, she was in a zoo. But the Surabaya Zoo has proved to be no sanctuary.

A few years ago, Melani and three other Sumatran Tigers were fed meat tainted with formaldehyde. Only Melani survived - and then only just.

Her organs were so damaged she was unable to absorb the requisite nutrients from her food and could not maintain her condition. Until recently this skeletal creature was doomed to crawl around a small dark enclosure that critics say resembled a dungeon.

Now, finally, she has been getting expert care elsewhere. But it is still no sure bet she will survive. If she does not, that would scratch another Sumatran Tiger off the estimated remaining population of between just 300 and 400.

"She’s a creature that’s been neglected and abused inside a zoo that is deemed to care for her. To see an animal struggle through this sort of thing you know she wants to live. It’s her will that’s keeping her alive," says Sybelle Foxcroft, a conservationist for Cee4Life.

The Surabaya Zoo still drags in plenty of visitors, but it does not appear that much of the money generated by ticket sales and other zoo enterprises goes to caring for animals. Local families who come here for an affordable day out appear oblivious to the startlingly poor condition of many of the animals and their enclosures. Those who do know about animal welfare say Surabaya Zoo is a disgrace, and grow frustrated and increasingly angry that the city government responsible for it is not working to solve the problem.

On this edition of 101 East, reporter George Roberts investigates how a facility once thought to be among South East Asia’s finest zoos has become a squalid hell-hole for its inhabitants. Beyond Surabaya, he explores why Indonesia appears to put such a low priority on its majestic and important creatures that are being pressed ever closer toward extinction.

Indonesia’s endangered animals are unsafe in the wild and in zoos. How can we protect them? @AJ101East #CryoftheTiger

101 East  airs each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2230; Friday: 0930; Saturday: 0330; Sunday: 1630. 

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