Saturday, 3 January 2009

Letter: Gorillas replace orangutans in Ragunan?

Personal note: Both the writer of the letter below and the situation regarding these orangutans are well known to Hardi and I. Along with others we have been, and continue to try everything we can think of to help. It's too long and complex a story to relate here and now. I imagine I'll be writing a lot more about these orangutans in the New Year; that they need urgent help is without question - when you see the photos and film you will know why the urgency.

Setting the above aside for one moment. It's extraordinary why a zoo like Howletts will spend so much time, energy and money on sending gorillas to Indonesia (where is the logic in that) when the zoo already abuses orangutans. If you know anyone at Howletts, perhaps you could ask them; my letter is already in the post to them.

The owner of Howletts zoo is DAMIAN ASPINALL. Why not write and ask him to explain why he sends gorillas to a zoo that abuses its own orangutans?

His email address is:



Letter: Gorillas replace orangutans in Ragunan?

Tue, 12/30/2008 11:02 AM | Opinion The Jakarta Post

In late 2000, P. Schmutzer, an animal lover and long-time resident of Indonesia, bequeathed her life savings for the construction of a world-class center for primates in Jakarta. Willie Smits, to whom she had entrusted this mammoth task on her deathbed, accomplished her dream.

The opening in 2002 of the greatest primate-center in the world, the Schmutzer Primate Center, located within the Rangunan Zoo compound, was indeed a significant event.

Sadly, however, the original aim of the center catering to the poor was diminished, since entry into the Primate Center has consisted of a separate fee, that is prohibitively expensive for its original target group of visitors: poor Indonesian children.

The center currently houses a variety of primates including chimpanzees, three African gorillas, gibbons, siamangs, lorises and a few fortunate Orangutans -- supposedly Indonesia's national treasure.

Unbeknownst to most visitors, there are close to 50 other Orangutans living at Ragunan zoo that live in desperate, miserable conditions in tiny and dark cement cages.

These Orangutans could not be accommodated in the Primate Center when it first opened, but were promised new enclosures.

To this day, however, that promise has been unfulfilled by the zoo administration.

For more then 10 years, I have been waiting for the release of several eligible Orangutans back into the wild. Currently, they are waiting patiently in rotten dark cages (some of which were once built for bears and cats and were used for quarantine areas).

Many times, full-grown Orangutans have tried to escape from these, and one even managed to lift a 5 x 2.5 meter piece of iron fence from the concrete walls -- so desperate was it to see sunlight.

My hopes quickly turned to bitter tears when I learned that this would become a new Gorilla enclosure! How can Indonesia's beloved national treasures sit and rot while the zoo builds a beautiful enclosure for an African animal?

I feel completely betrayed. Me and my beloved animals have been deceived for years.

Who will care for Indonesia's Red-haired children if not the Indonesian people themselves? As a foreigner, I feel practically defeated after dedicating 40 years of my life to these precious animals only to see them discarded like so much garbage in the nation's top zoo, in favor of Gorillas from another country.

And to Howlett's, I say, what are you doing??

Senior curator
Ragunan Zoo, Jakarta