An endangered Bornean orangutan has died young at Indonesia's notorious "zoo of death" in Surabaya after succumbing to a tumor in her large intestine, the zoo confirmed on Wednesday.
"The autopsy result showed that there was a tumor in her large intestine," Surabaya Zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat said. "Her appetite had dropped drastically."
Nanik, who was also found to have liver problems, was found dead on Sept. 21 at the age of 12 — Bornean orangutans should live to around 60 in captivity.
Agus said a group of veterinarians at the zoo had become aware of the animal's health problems around two months ago. Vets described the animal's declining energy levels and increasingly asthenic appearance before she was moved to the zoo's quarantine facility on Sept. 19.
Animal doctors administered antibiotics, vitamins and an analgesic in quarantine but Nanik made little progress in the following two days.
At 2:45 p.m on Sept. 21, Nanik exhibited difficulties breathing. She died shortly after.
Indonesia's largest zoo has proved itself to be a macabre animal dungeon, incarcerating some of the world's most endangered species in shambolic squalor. A giraffe was found dead with almost 20 kilos of plastic in its stomach. A steady diet of formaldehyde-laced meat corroded a Sumatran tiger's digestive tract. More than 150 pelicans lived cheek-by-bill in a pen no larger than a basketball court. Komodo dragons went missing, an African lion died in pain.
The Indonesian government was forced to take steps after the extent of the scandal caught the attention of international media, from the Huffington Post to London's Daily Telegraph.
Agus was keen to emphasize that the zoo had improved its practices over the last year, and stressed that Nanik's death was not attributable to the kind of willful blindness of the zookeepers' casual sadism that was imparted to animals in the years before the zoo was brought to account.
"Like many places, we also have issues," he said. "But we have a standard for the animals' food and we are now improving the treatment."
Tony Sumampau, a former member of the team drafted in to manage the crisis at the zoo, was not able to comment on Nanik's cause of death but warned that conditions at the zoo were still far from acceptable.
"The number of animal deaths could be avoided if the management really paid attention to animal welfare," he said. "They just conduct minimum renovations, such as repairing cages or repainting... What they need to do right now is to totally revamp the zoo to increase animal welfare."
Agus admitted progress had been slow.
"If we find that some species suffer from overcrowding, we will improve and enlarge the facilities for that species," he said. "It is in accordance with the improvement of the zoo. We have also improved water facilities for the animals. We are increasing the clear water capacity from city's water company — and we have stopped using water from the city's river."
The issue of overcrowding is more complicated than authorities would prefer.
"We have offered some of the collection to other conservation institution," Tony said. "Some were accepted, but there were institutions who refused — seeing how Surabaya zoo was managed. Others were afraid that the animals from Surabaya zoo carried diseases."
Data acquired by the Jakarta Globe show 43 animal deaths at the zoo from several species between July 15 to Sept . 17.
Agus, however, said the zoo saw around 20 animals die per month.
"It is because the animals are old or they have diseases," he said. "It is all natural causes."