Jakarta. Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini has announced major changes in the running of the city’s zoo, notorious for its high rate of animals deaths, after the city administration was finally granted a wildlife conservation permit to manage the facility more comprehensively.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan handed Rismaharini the permit on Monday at Surabaya Zoo, dubbed “the zoo of death” by the international media for the high number of animals that die under suspicious and often harrowing circumstances there.
The wildlife conservation permit will allow the city administration, which runs the zoo, to kick off a much-needed overhaul of the facilities to improve animal welfare, which Zulkifli stressed should be the main priority of all stakeholders in the zoo.
Crucially, it will finally allow the zoo to resume its animal exchange program, in which sick or stricken animals can be sent to other, better-equipped zoos and conservation centers where they can get the treatment they need.
The zoo lost its conservation permit in 2010 over a tug-of-war over control of the zoo by the previous management. The management fiasco resulted in the massive neglect of the animals and dozens of deaths, including of critically endangered species, and the loss of some animals suspected to have been sold into the illegal wildlife trade.
Rismaharini, whose administration subsequently took over the zoo but was unable to make any significant changes pending the issuance of a new wildlife conservation permit, said on Monday that one of her priorities would be to expand the total area of animal enclosures, including by reclaiming an existing parking lot.
She also promised to build a new water treatment facility.
The animal exchange program will also be resumed, according to Ratna Achjuningrum, the chief director of the city-owned company in charge of the zoo.
Zulkifli said he hoped that with the new permit and the changes it would usher in, the city would be able to reverse the tide of animal deaths at the zoo.
“It’s much better now. Of course there are a few problems that pop up, but the improvements are continuing,” he said as quoted by Tempo.co.
The zoo has come under international scrutiny because of the number and manner of animal deaths there.
Earlier this year, a lion was found strangled to death in its enclosure after getting tangled in a cable that was hanging loose near its door.
In 2012, the zoo’s only giraffe was found dead with a 20 kilogram ball of plastic trash in its stomach. The plastic was believed to have accumulated from trash thrown into the giraffe’s enclosure by visitors.
There was also the case in 2011, still unsolved, when three baby Komodo dragons went missing. They were suspected to have been sold into the illegal wildlife trade.
An adult Komodo dragon was the latest casualty at the zoo, dying on Aug. 7. An autopsy indicated it died of a digestive tract problem.