REPORT: Indonesia’s Bandung Zoo bears need more than food

02 February 2017

Hungry bears at an Indonesian zoo need much more than just food says Animals Asia's Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale.

He has also reiterated that lobbying Indonesia’s government is an effective way to achieve lasting change for the bears as well as animals suffering similarly across Indonesia.

The Bandung bears have hit the headlines following videos of them begging for food going viral being picked up by mainstream media.

The videos span from last summer till January 2017 and while the bears’ condition appears to improve in the latest video, it’s clear the bears face problems beyond just food.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“Animals Asia has been encouraging Bandung Zoo and others in the country to improve their welfare for years. There has been some positive changes, but it’s not nearly enough. These animals deserve much more.

“As an animal lover the desire is always to remove these bears but this is not practically possible. The bears are the property of the zoo and the government and we have no authority to simply remove these individuals from the zoo. Beyond this, any short-term fix to their feeding issues wouldn’t change the wider problem that these bears need proper enforceable care.

“The underlying issue is Indonesia’s zoo regulations do not define animal welfare and this lack of an enforceable definition is what is causing suffering to the animals in this zoo and in similar facilities across the country.”

Dave Neale has welcomed the news that Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry, Dr Siti Nurbaya Bakar has responded to the outcry. Dr Bakar said:

“Since knowing this problem, I've sent a team to the field to check directly the condition of the bears in Bandung Zoo as well as to collect materials and information which I will use to make the right decision. In addition, a doctor is also included in the team to perform a complete medical examination and welfare of animals, including the suitability of the condition of the place.”

Dr Bakar has also made assurances that support will be offered as required.

Dave Neale added:

“The light at the end of the tunnel is that the sun bears of Bandung Zoo could be the catalyst which sees the government take tangible action. First help these bears and then hopefully consider amending legislation to help all animals affected similarly, in this zoo and beyond.

“Yes, these bears need a proper diet. But what we are seeing are bored bears without proper nourishment or enrichment, being conditioned into responsive begging for food. Bears are food-led and are likely to eat regardless of hunger or the suitability of their food. Both hunger and poor diet can lead to long-term problems.

“Animal lovers across the world should be shocked and the bears need them to lobby on their behalf. Email the ambassador in your country, share stories on social media, tell people what is going on – it all adds pressure and pressure can lead to change. This is the single best way people can help these bears.”

Animals Asia’s partner in Vietnam, animal welfare NGO, Wild Welfare has been working directly with Bandung Zoo to advocate for better care and treatment of the animals. Progress has been made but is hampered by local resources and the lack of legal guidelines for appropriate animal care.

Dave Neale added:

“Already we know that the government are scrambling for responses. We hope this brings resources to the zoo and they can subsequently implement the management and enclosure changes so desperately needed.”

Indonesia-based animal welfare NGO, Scorpion Foundation, which filmed the bears with the help of funding from Animals Asia, has outlined the difficulty in terms of helping the bears. They remind supporters that there is no safe place for re-homing the bears and that government intervention is required for lasting change.

They posted to their Facebook page:

“If we demand bears, tigers, etc, must be moved, we often face the question, ‘moved where?’ There is no good zoo in Indonesia and no spare capacity anywhere to take surplus animals. All rescue centres are already over-full.

“Unless you have lived and worked in Indonesia, it is impossible to imagine the problems we face every day of our lives helping to save wildlife. It hurts us to see animals suffering, and it is something we see and have to face every day of our lives.

“For the first time, we now see government beginning to listen and take action. This is due in large part to our supporters. Thank you.”

Animals Asia and Change for Animals Foundation have jointly supported Scorpion Foundation to raise awareness of the suffering of captive animals in Indonesia and tackle the country’s illegal wildlife trade.

Change For Animals Foundation and Animals Asia applaud Scorpion for their commitment to raising awareness of the plight of wildlife throughout Indonesia, while lobbying for the strengthening of laws to safeguard wildlife protection. While individual animals are never forgotten, both organisations are committed to supporting Scorpion’s holistic approach.

The care of animals in Asia continues to be a huge issue in both developed and developing nations across the continent. While a lack of resources in some countries, such as Indonesia or Vietnam, is resulting in poor care, in richer countries, such as China, huge investments in aquariums are seeing the use of animals in entertainment and subsequent animal suffering grow – just as some of these industries begin to wind down in the west.

What you can do

Animals Asia never underestimates the power of the written word, and while a single letter or email may not seem like much, the collective expression of many people's opinions can help bring about real change.

We urge you to do all that you can to encourage the Indonesian government to further legislate against zoos being able to keep animals in such appalling conditions. Write a polite letter to the Indonesian Ambassador and send it to the main embassy address in your country. Embassy addresses can be found here.

You can also help by signing up to the Asia for Animals action team and join us in speaking out for animals. We need your help to improve the lives of animals across Asia. Writing a letter on a specific welfare issue is a valuable way to support our campaigns.

Sign up now to receive email alerts on the latest action in which we need your help. For more details, click here.

Find out about our End Bear Farming, Cat & Dog Welfare, and Captive Animal Welfare Programmes

Animals Asia is a member of the Asia for Animals coalition. A coalition of 16 international NGO's campaigning on animal protection issues across Asia.