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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR's response to the conditions at Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia

As a member of the Asia for Animals Coalition (AfA) International Animal Rescue has been part of recent efforts to improve conditions for the animals in Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia. Extensive international media coverage has exposed the shocking living conditions in the zoo and reported the tragic, needless deaths of various animals through starvation, neglect and even deliberate killing.

We are aware that members of the public and many of our own supporters are shocked and distressed by the plight of the animals in Surabaya and we share those sentiments completely. Nor does it change the situation to know that there are other zoos in Indonesia where the animals are living in equally appalling conditions. The problem is not exclusive to Surabaya and will not be completely solved by shutting it down. However, the media have shone a spotlight on Surabaya in particular and public attention is firmly focused on the desperate plight of its animals.

The AfA coalition wrote to the South East Asian Zoo Association (SEAZA) about the zoo in November 2013. This followed a letter sent by the AfA in July of the same year to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, SEAZA and the PKBSI (the Indonesian Zoological Parks Organisation.) The first letter expressed deep concern about the welfare of animals in Surabaya. At the time of the second letter it was believed that a decision had been taken to allow an international team to visit the zoo and assess the living conditions and welfare of the animals. The AfA letter commended SEAZA and PKBSI for reaching this decision and urged them to set a date and make arrangements for this assessment as a matter of great urgency. However, at the time of writing we are not aware that any further progress has been made.

It would seem that the animals’ welfare is bound up in issues of management and internal politics and it is not simply a question of a lack of funds. Countless animal welfare groups have pledged money to help improve the animals’ conditions but these offers have not been taken up. For whatever reason, various individuals involved in the decision-making process are showing a reluctance even to acknowledge the current appalling conditions at the zoo, let alone to improve them.

Nevertheless, under continuing scrutiny from international media, animal welfare groups and the general public, we are convinced that eventually the Surabaya zoo authorities will be forced to take action. International Animal Rescue and our colleagues at the AfA will keep up the pressure so that eventually,  not only will changes be made at Surabaya, they will also be the precursor to changes and improvements at other zoos throughout Indonesia.

For everyone who has seen the terrible suffering of zoo animals in Surabaya and elsewhere in Indonesia, those changes can’t come soon enough.