Thousands of Indonesia’s Zoo Animals Face Starvation Amid Pandemic

Most of the country’s zoos can only afford to feed their animals until mid-May. A government official even said that as a last resort, they might allow zoos to feed herbivores to carnivores, as long as they are not rare or endangered species.
April 29, 2020, 3:37am
Animals, Indonesia, hungry, coronavirus
An Orangutan watching a zookeeper spray disinfectant near its cage in Kampar, Riau, Indonesia. Photo via WAHYUDI/AFP

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

Tens of thousands of zoo animals across Indonesia are at risk of going hungry due to a lack of revenue from visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indonesian Zoological Association (PKBSI) said.

The PKBSI told The Jakarta Post that 92 percent of its members — 55 zoos on the islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali, Lombok, and Borneo — are only equipped to feed their animals until mid-May.

Only five zoos in the association said that they can feed their animals for the entire month of May or beyond. Three said that they have enough food stocked for the next one to three months, while only two zoos are able to feed their animals for more than three months.

According to optimistic predictions by the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the spread of the coronavirus will only cease on June 6, 2020. Until then, or possibly longer, Indonesia’s zoos will not have any visitors, which means they won’t have money to buy more food.

The PKBSI’s zoos hold over 70,000 animals of over 5,000 species from Indonesia and worldwide. In an interview with The Jakarta Post, PKSBI spokesperson Sulhan Syafi’i said that not all zoos receive stipends from the government, with privately-owned zoos relying solely on ticket sales as a source of income. Currently, Syafi’i said, animals are being fed less than their usual portions.

Tony Sumampau, secretary-general of the PKBSI and director of Taman Safari Indonesia, the country’s second-largest zoo, said PKBSI zoos must have contingency plans for unforeseen setbacks, but most are only prepared for a couple months of little to no revenue. Zoos across Indonesia have been closed for roughly one month.

“We used to feed a leopard every two days with three to four kilograms of [beef and mutton]. For now, we’ve changed its diet to beef and chicken,” said Sumampau. “The tigers usually eat six days a week, but now we only feed them for five days. It is possible that we will only feed them four days a week if conditions remain like this.”

The Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta is eligible for government subsidies and has reported that its animals are being fed normally.

“Our animals are doing well. Ragunan has its own budget for food that is subsidised by the provincial government, so we have no problem with that. Our employees still come to work to feed the animals and clean their cages as usual, albeit with adjusted shifts,” Wahyudi, head of Ragunan Zoo’s public relations division told local media.

Indra Exploitasia from the Biological Diversity Conservation division of the Environmental Ministry said he is trying to arrange tax cuts for affected zoos in coordination with the Ministries of Finance, Economy, and Internal Affairs.

However, Exploitasia has admitted that as a last resort, he would consider allowing zoos to feed their herbivores to carnivores, as long as they are not rare or endangered species. “We don’t want that to happen. We hope the pandemic ends soon,” Exploitasia said.

Employees of the Medan Zoo in North Sumatra, a privately-owned zoo that does not receive a government subsidy, are raising funds independently to keep their animals from starving despite zero visitors.

“We set up fundraisers on social media, but the stay at home order makes it difficult to raise funds effectively. Medan Zoo relies solely on ticket sales to feed their animals and pay their employees. Now the zoo is accepting donations and taking out loans,” Putrama, Medan Director of Local Business, told local media.