Indonesia investigates allegations of Sumatran tiger abuse at city zoo
- Indonesian conservation authorities have launched an investigation into allegations of Sumatran tiger abuse at a municipal zoo in North Sumatra province.
- The tigers at the zoo appear emaciated, with their protruding bones, raising fears that they are undernourished.
- Zoo management denied the allegation, saying one of its tigers was sick while the others were healthy and properly fed.
- Zoos in Indonesia are notorious for their neglect, mismanagement and corruption, with animals dying of malnutrition or mistreatment, or sold in the illegal wildlife trade.
MEDAN, Indonesia – Conservation authorities in Indonesia have launched an investigation into allegations of animal abuse by a public zoo where Sumatran tigers were found emaciated and apparently eating grass.
The incident was revealed in late September in the form of an online video that quickly went viral. The video showed a Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), a critically endangered species, at the Municipal Zoo in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. The video showed the emaciated animal, with its protruding bones in plain view, walking around its enclosure and apparently eating grass.
Zoo management said the tiger in the video had been sick for about two weeks and it was common for tigers to eat grass to shed the fur they ingested. The provincial conservation department says it has deployed a team to investigate the zoo and will publish its findings soon.
Mongabay Indonesia visited the zoo on September 24 to confirm the information and learn more about the tiger. There were few visitors to the zoo that day as COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. Mongabay Indonesia saw three other tigers who appeared to be in similar physical condition to the tiger in the viral video.
Yona, a veterinarian at the zoo, told Mongabay Indonesia that only the tiger in the video was sick while the rest were healthy. She added that the tigers were given nutritious food and vitamins on a regular basis.
“We do a medical examination [on the tiger]. It was probably the diarrhea that made her body bony, ”said Yona.
Wildlife experts, however, have expressed skepticism at the zoo’s explanation and accuse it of underfeeding its tigers amid declining income due to declining visitors due to pandemic restrictions. Forum Investigator Zoo Indonesia, an NGO, said the city-run zoo had reduced the daily rations of tiger meat in recent months to 2-3 kilograms (4.4-6.6 pounds), from 6 kg (13 , 2 pounds) previously.
“Tigers are emaciated because they are not properly fed, not because they are sick,” said Andi Sinaga of Forum Investigator Zoo Indonesia. “It is a sad fact.”
Medan Zoo is one of many Indonesian zoos that have been hit hard by a loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic while still having to cover the costs of feeding and caring for animals.
The results of a survey published in April 2020 by the Indonesian Association of Zoos (PKBSI) showed that only a tenth of the country’s zoos would be able to feed their animals for more than a month, and only up to four months, in the absence of income from visitation fees. There are approximately 60 zoos across Indonesia, home to over 4,900 animals.
All zoo animals in Indonesia, including those in private zoos, are considered state property. Many are known for the extreme conditions in which they keep their animals, failing to meet the minimum standards imposed by the government. Neglect, mismanagement and corruption have long plagued zoos nationwide, with animals dying of malnutrition or abuse, or sold in the illegal wildlife trade, prompting environmentalists to shut down or reform the installations.
Some zoos have launched online appeals for donations directly to the public to help buy food for the animals since the start of the pandemic, while others are harvesting the vegetation that grows in their area to feed their herbivores. Some zoos have sent vegetables and grass to others in need.
It is believed that less than 600 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild in Indonesia, with the species considered to be critically endangered. The big cat population has plunged due to widespread destruction of its forest habitat, primarily due to logging and the expansion of oil palm and pulpwood plantations. Today, only two populations of Sumatra maintain long-term viability, with more than 30 breeding females each. But these two tiger communities are seriously threatened by the planned road projects.
FEEDBACK: Use this form send a message to the author of this article. If you want to post a public comment, you can do so at the bottom of the page.