Surabaya. Police in Surabaya said on Sunday they had found sufficient evidence to indicate that violations had occurred during the transfer of animals from Surabaya Zoo, hundreds of animals have died in unnatural and often harrowing conditions, amid increasing reports of mistreatment and mismanagement.“We have found sufficient evidence to raise the status to a full investigation,” Adj. Sr. Comr. Farman, the Surabaya Police’s chief of detectives, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
Farman said it appeared that the zoo, under the then-management of a caretaker team led by Tony Sumampau, the director of Taman Safari Indonesia, had violated the 1990 Natural Resources Conservation Law, which prohibits the trade in certain endangered species.
The law also stipulates that wildlife can only be traded with wildlife and not with other items.
Farman said police had found evidence that some animals from Surabaya Zoo were traded by officials for motor vehicles.
He said police had also obtained documents showing some animals had been sold for cash.
Another document showed Surabaya Zoo had agreed to transfer 34 animals to Pematang Siantar Zoo in North Sumatra in exchange for 200 stuffed animals.
Tony denied the allegation that the trades carried out under his management were illegal, saying they were made in the best interests of the animals, given that one of the main problems experts had long identified at the zoo was its inability to properly care for all of its animals.
He added that transfers out of Surabaya were based on recommendations from an independent team of experts, set up by the Forestry Ministry, to evaluate the health of the animals and the management system in place at the zoo.
“The team made many recommendations, including one that suggested releasing or trading species if their numbers were too high,” Tony said.
“If anything, I regret that the recommendation is no longer being carried out by the current management.”
Surabaya Zoo has in recent years come under international scrutiny for the high rate of horrific animal deaths there.
The latest death came on Thursday night, when a badly malnourished white female tiger named Chandrika died after essentially starving to death.
“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 Globe on Friday.
“Food often fell out of her mouth because of her damaged tongue.”
But a source at the zoo told the Globe that officials had ignored Chandrika’s plight, refusing to give her medical attention for an infection that began on her shoulder three months earlier and later spread to her mouth after she licked at it.
“Chandrika was not taken care of by a medical team as required,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “She needed emergency care.”
Tony concurred, saying he felt sorry for Chandrika “because she never received medical treatment.”
Zoo spokesman Agus Supangkat told the Globe that the animal had likely died from 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” on the cause of death.
Liang said the pneumonia became deadly because of Chandrika’s malnourished condition, adding the zoo had never weighed the animal.