A 17-year-old white tiger named Chandrika died on Thursday night at the Surabaya "Nightmare Zoo" in East Java, where scores of animals have met untimely ends amid increasing reports of mistreatment and mismanagement.“She had problems with her tongue and lost some of her teeth because of her old age,” Liang Kaspe, the zoo's operations director, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday. “Food often fell out of her mouth because of her damaged tongue.”
The white tiger is a rare variant of the endangered Bengal tiger, only several thousand of which remain in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Tigers live up to 15 years in the wild but can survive up to 25 years in captivity.
“Chandrika was not taken care of by a medical team as required,” a source at the zoo told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “She needed emergency care.”
The source said the tiger had never been given a medical check or had blood work or any other kinds of tests done, and that an outside party had offered to treat the animal but zoo officials had refused. “Any day now she will die,” the source said prior to the animal's death.
Zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat told the Jakarta Globe that the animal was likely sick with pneumonia.
“We're also looking for other possible causes to strengthen the diagnosis,” he said. “We have sent her body organs to a lab at Airlangga University [in Surabaya] to get the right diagnosis.”
Liang said that the pneumonia became deadly because of Chandrika's malnourished condition, adding that the zoo had never weighed the animal.
Chandrika's health had been deteriorating for three months. When she was considered healthy she would eat three kilograms of mixed meat — beef, chicken and goat — but as her condition declined she was down to one kilogram of food per day.
“I feel sorry for Chandrika as she did not receive medical treatment,” Taman Safari's head caretaker Tony Sumampou told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
Liang admitted that the tiger was treated in her cage when she became ill and was not moved to the zoo's clinic until Jan. 23.
Five white tigers remain in the zoo: three male and two female.
A giraffe there was found dead there last year with 20 kilograms of plastic in its stomach and an endangered Sumatran tiger died after being fed meat that had been laced with formaldehyde on a regular basis.
A malnourished female tiger named Melani was transferred from the Surabaya Zoo, where she was on the brink of death, to Taman Safari in Bogor.
Forest Minister Zulkifli Hasan has suggested that Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini, who is fully responsible for the zoo, move at least half of the 3,459 animals who live there. Some 84 animals are in poor condition due to age or illness, the zoo said.
Zoo Director Ratna Achjuningrum said that many of the animals fell ill “because of their own mistakes,” such as “being hyperactive” and “fighting among each other."
A three-year-old komodo dragon died there earlier in the month — one of 105 animal deaths since July 2013, zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat said.
Other deaths included an 18-month-old African lion who died in January after getting its head caught in its cage, and a young mountain goat, discovered dead by zookeepers in January with bruises on its neck.
The management of the zoo has been taken over by the Surabaya city administration, but the deaths have not stopped and animal-welfare groups continue to call for its closure.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse