Michael the orangutan escapes cruel selfie duty

21 March 2017

Michael the orangutan is forced to work as photo props for visitors

Sustained pressure has convinced a zoo in Indonesia to never again abuse baby orangutan Michael for selfies – AND build him a new enclosure.

Kandi Zoo in West Sumatra has announced it will no longer generate extra cash by forcing animals to work as photo props for visitors.

In particular that means Michael, a baby orangutan will no longer be handled by countless tourists looking for that picture to share on social media AND he is in line for a new enlarged enclosure as part of efforts to boost animal welfare at the facility in the face of mounting criticism.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“It is excellent news that Kandi Zoo are doing the right thing by the animals and ending these photo sessions. Internationally we are seeing the selfie increasingly harming animals as people seek photographic souvenirs without asking themselves what impact that is having on the animals.

“This sends a clear message to other facilities in the country that this form of exploitative entertainment is no longer necessary and will no longer be tolerated. By committing to end this practice, Kandi Zoo are demonstrating their willingness to improve the welfare of the animals in their care and ensuring that animal welfare becomes an integral part of the zoo's future plans.”

Michael is forced to work as a prop for visitors

Use of animals as photo props is adding to the pressures on animals in zoos and circuses, many of which already suffer inadequate facilities or care.

Young animals are usually preferred for these shots and many are taken from their parents when still very vulnerable. Just when they should be feeding and forging familial bonds, they are taken away. If poached from the wild, the animal’s parents are likely to be killed in the process.

Instead of sleeping or playing with siblings, the baby animals are expected to perform. They are kept awake and unable to rest. It’s tiring, especially for such preciously young creatures. In many cases, more alert animals are considered cuter than sleepy ones, meaning many are roughly handled to ensure they have big cute eyes for that all-important pic.

Media and public scrutiny following a concerted campaign by Animals Asia, Scorpion Foundation and Change for Animals Foundation has put Indonesian zoos and circuses in the spotlight.

Poorly-fed sun bears at Bandung Zoo drew widespread condemnation when footage of them begging for food went viral earlier this year. The reaction within Indonesia gives hope that lasting change can benefit all captive animals.

In addition, Animals Asia’s “dolphins on a plane” campaign has put the spotlight on the practice of travelling circuses using planes to transport performing dolphins around the country.

Dave Neale added:

“Across Asia we are seeing a growing numbers of zoos, circuses and safari parks but it’s heartening that we are also seeing – in response – a growing animal welfare movement and a growing understanding of these issues. Those investing in animal cruelty need to know that this is an industry with no future. The decline in interest in animal performance in Europe and North America will be followed by Asia.  I am absolutely certain of that.”  

Michael in cage