While headlines have been popping up every few weeks about animal welfare issues at the Surabaya Zoo in Indonesia, little is known about the people behind the controversy. According to the New York Times, critics are pointing to for-profit safari park owner Tony Sumampau, who used to run the zoo.
In 2010, following widespread criticism over animal deaths, the national government named a team that included Sumampau to oversee the facility. Some criticized Sumampau for moving animals back and forth to his own safari parks while in charge, leaving the sick animals at the zoo. Sumampau contends that he moved the animals to improve genetic diversity and relieve overcrowding. He also blames the employees for mismanagement at the zoo:
One of Mr. Sumampau's longstanding complaints about the zoo is that longtime employees do not work hard. Almost no staff members could be seen inside the zoo during two visits on a recent Sunday, though it was crowded with visitors, some of whom were throwing peanuts and other food to the animals.
Then, last July, Tri Rismaharini, the mayor of Surabaya, took control of the zoo following even more complaints. While some hoped she would bring a welcome change, the mayor reinstated the zoo's longtime senior veterinarian, Liang Kaspe, who does not believe in using contraceptives for animals and "allows much more crowding of animal pens than most zoos," according to the Times:
Ms. Liang also disapproves of euthanasia, citing a moral reluctance to take life. When Chandrika, an elderly white tiger, injured its tongue several months ago and had trouble eating, she did not tranquilize and operate, she said, because she thought the tiger was so old that it would die on the operating table. The tiger instead became more and more gaunt, to the horror of animal activists around the world, until its weakened immune system was unable to fight off pneumonia, and it died.
You can learn more about the Surabaya Zoo's history of animal abuse here, and sign a petition to close down the zoo here.