Officials at Ragunan Zoo in South Jakarta have confirmed that two animals died at the facility recently, but denied reports of a spate of mysterious deaths.
Bambang Triyono, the head of administrative affairs at the zoo, said on Thursday that the zoo’s only giraffe had died in late May, while a hippo had died this month.
“The giraffe died of old age,” he said as quoted by Kompas.com.
“In the wild, it could probably live up to 20 years at most, but in captivity it can live up to 30. So it’s testament to the quality of our care that it managed to live until 27.”
Bambang added that the hippo had died of digestive tract and kidney complications and that it was 18 years old.
“It could have lived to 20 or 25 years, but it died because of illness, and this has been confirmed by a necropsy by experts from IPB [Bogor Institute of Agriculture].”
Bambang stressed that widely circulated rumors that a host of other animals had died recently, including an orangutan, a leopard and a rare pigeon from Papua, were not true.
“Any talk of the Victoria crowned pigeon or other animals dying is false. Only two animals died recently. So there was no mass die-off,” he said.
He was responding to reports in the local media, quoting an unnamed source from the zoo who claimed that dozens of animals had died since late May under mysterious circumstances and were buried in secret on the zoo grounds.
The source put the number of dead hippos at two, and claimed that 20 crowned pigeons had died, along with an orangutan, a leopard, a zebra and two deer.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama previously took the Ragunan staff to task for what he called at the time their poor management of the 120-hectare facility.
He said the city administration had allocated Rp 40 billion for the running of the zoo each year, but that poor management had left the animals unhealthy and the zoo even less popular than Taman Safari in the Bogor highlands.
The Jakarta Globe spoke to a recent visitor to the park who was horrified to see a half-meter-wide hole torn in a rusty fence enclosing the saltwater crocodile exhibit.
“An inquisitive child could easily fit through and in one step fall right into the croc pond,” said Veronica Koman, a West Jakarta resident.
Indonesia’s zoos have long courted criticism for the poor state of animal welfare, with Surabaya Zoo deemed among the worst, dubbed the “zoo of death” after dozens of animals died there of starvation, ill-treatment or other unnatural causes.
One of the most horrific deaths there was of a giraffe in March last year, found to have 20 kilograms of plastic balled up in its stomach, from litter it had ingested.
The zoo is once again under fire over the fate of an unwell female Sumatran tiger, named Melani, who is extremely emaciated. The zoo says it will have to put her down.
Concerned citizens have launched an online petition at Change.org/SaveKBS calling for measures to improve the management of Surabaya Zoo, and as of Thursday evening had collected 7,000 signatures.