Surabaya. Only two days after a wildebeest was found dead in its cage, an African lion was also found dead at the Surabaya Zoo, which has been globally slammed on for its poor treatment for the animals in its care.
The 18-month-old male African Lion named Michael was found dead after its head got stuck between steel cables in his cage.
“Michael was found dead on Tuesday morning when the zoo keeper was checking his cage,” Surabaya Zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat said.
Each of the zoo’s lions spends its days in two different cages. Every morning the lions would be taken to a display cage where zoo visitors could watch them, then in the afternoon they would be moved to another cage where they slept, Agus explained.
He said the zoo used steel cables to secure the cage so zookeepers did not have to manually open or close the cage door with their hands — a safety precaution, which prevents them from being attacked by the animals.
“We are still investigating how the steel cables could entrap the African lion’s head,” Agus said.
He declined to confirm that Michael’s needless death was caused by zookeepers’ negligence.
“Michael was relatively young, he was only one-and-half-years old; it could be that he was playing around and somehow his head got stuck,” he said.
With Michael’s death there are only four African lions left at the zoo. The young lion had been rescued by East Java Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) before he was sent to the Surabaya zoo in March last year.
Surabaya Police have meanwhile started an investigation into the lion’s death.
Surabaya Police detectives chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Farman said a team has visited the zoo to gather evidence but the lion’s corpse had been removed.
Farhan would not say whether police believe the zoo was trying to hamper the investigation by getting rid of the lion’s remains.
“We are going to wait for the autopsy results, then we can further examine the case,” he said.
On Sunday evening a wildebeest was found dead in its cage.
Agus said signs of the wildebeest’s deteriorating health had been noticed several days prior to its death. The animal’s assigned keeper had reported its illness to the zoo’s medical team, which then moved it to conduct tests and a medical evaluation. Despite this, the wildebeest’s health worsened.
According to Agus, an autopsy showed an intestinal complication as the cause of death.
The issue raised speculation that poor maintenance and upkeep of the animals had contributed to Sunday’s death. But Agus denied allegations that officials had not been feeding the animal appropriately, citing the medical team’s autopsy results, which showed the wildebeest still had food in his stomach at the time of death.
He added that poor weather conditions may have been a contributing factor.
It was not the first time Surabaya Zoo officials blamed the weather as a cause of death of animals in its care. In October, an orangutan named Betty was found dead after suffering from pneumonia, an illness zoo officials blamed on the city’s heat.
Saturday’s death reduces the zoo’s wildebeest population to only one, a female.
The Taman Safari II zoo in Prigen, Pasuruan, East Java, donated the wildebeest to the Surabaya Zoo in April.
The death follows a string of animal deaths within the confines of the Surabaya Zoo, with 43 having died between July and September last year.
The zoo has been in the media spotlight since the mysterious deaths of a lion and a kangaroo a few years ago.
Surabaya Zoo has also been condemned for the death of a giraffe — found to have had 20 kilograms of plastic in its stomach — and for the death of a Sumatran tiger, which was found with a rotten digestive tract after being regularly fed meat laced with formaldehyde.
Many other animals at the zoo have also perished, allegedly from neglect, starvation, maltreatment and unnatural causes in recent years, while others are reportedly seen living in dirty, cramped cages suffering from illnesses.
This earned the zoo the nickname “zoo of death” in international media.
Animal rights activists have called for the zoo’s closure, but later reneged on the suggestion over concerns that the estimated 3,000 remaining animals would struggle to find new homes.