Indonesian zoo stops forcing orangutan, sun bear and otter to perform for visitors

30 November 2017

Animals free to be animals after exposé leads to backlash over cruelty and exploitation at zoo in Yogyakarta city triggering change of policy.

At the start of 2017, any visitor to Gembira Loka Zoo on the Indonesian island of Java would have been witness to appalling displays of animal cruelty.

Footage taken by Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner, Scorpion Foundation in February and April this year, showed a sun bear being forced to pedal a tricycle for the public’s amusement and another clip featuring an otter pushing a cart.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 16.19.33

Outrage over the exposé by Animals Asia, Scorpion Foundation and Change for Animals Foundation has forced the zoo to stop the performances.

Scorpion’s monitoring team can also confirm that zoo authorities have also stopped offering photos opportunities with an orangutan in the wake of footage showing the animal being made to grin and pose for selfies with visitors.

Screenshot 2017-11-29 16.17.57 copy

The clip also showed anxious staff on hand to deal with the slightest hint of restlessness from the orangutan, in a powerful reminder that what wild animals are forced to do to entertain humans is entirely unnatural to them and an assault on their dignity.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“This success is testimony to the incredible force for good that we can all be part of when cruelty is exposed. Petitions are read, public anger is felt, change does happen.

“The authorities and zoo managers are beginning to understand that manipulating animals so they no longer behave in a natural, instinctive way is not just inexcusable, it’s bad for business. Once these exposés come to light, the public has shown it does not want to be party to this degrading and irresponsible spectacle which serves no purpose but to line pockets.”

Scorpion investigators have confirmed on two follow-up visits - in October and November this year - that the sun bear and otter are no longer forced to perform, and the zoo is no longer offering photos with the orangutan in a triumph for the tens of thousands of animal lovers who signed a petition to end all cruel animal attractions in Indonesian zoos.

The news is the latest in a raft of positive developments indicating a real animal welfare awakening in the Southeast Asian powerhouse.

Just this year, two zoos ended animal selfies and performances while Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister spoke of the need for standardised laws on animal care after a Scorpion exposé showing bears living in deplorable conditions at Bandung zoo went viral.

Dave said:

“We have to thank the Gembira Loka Zoo management for doing the right thing by the animals in their care. They’ve shown that they are willing to listen and willing to change.

“Now we want to go even further. With sustained pressure, we can help this movement spread. Other animals, such as sun bear Ajib and her cub Marsha being used as props for tourist selfies, still need our help. Clear laws standardising the care of all animals at all facilities across the country - including circuses - must be introduced.

You can be part of change. Sign Animals Asia’s petition to end Indonesia’s cruel dolphin circuses and add your voice to calls to stop tourist selfies for sun bears Ajib and Marsha.