Personal Comment re. the letter below.
I knew the late Mrs Schmutzer quite well and often toured the zoo with her identifying for urgent renovation with her money the worst enclosures. Mrs Schmutzer was particularly keen on helping the big cats and the orangutans.
Whilst alive she paid for new large cat cages to be built and the orangutans were next on the list before her regrettable death. Based on my conversations with this caring lady I know for certain she would never have wanted to see the orangutans to continue suffering all these years later. I am equally sure she would be very sad to see the current neglect of the primate centre built with her legacy, where one gorilla has already died.
Why would an Indonesian zoo, so obviously incapable of caring for this country's own large ape, want to have gorillas? What good does this do gorillas or the Indonesian people? Why would Howletts Zoo want to send gorillas 7000 miles to a country in which there is scant interest in its own wildlife, let alone African gorillas?
If Howletts and the Aspinall Foundation really cared about the conditions at the zoo, why then have they completely ignored the horrific conditions in which the orangutans are kept, whilst spending vast sums of money moving gorillas half way round the world to a country where their presence is nothing more than a public curiosity?
"The author of the letter below says: Puck Schmutzer's vision was to create an environment for captive primates from around the world that would act as a positive model for zoos in Indonesia and indeed in Asia with its cage design, husbandry and record-keeping.
She achieved this with the creation of the Schmutzer Primate Center and, with the direction of Willie Smits, helped create a network of wildlife sanctuaries around the country."
I suspect this is correct. It's just a terrible shame she has been badly let down on both counts. The enclosure design has been heavily criticised, the record keeping is very suspect, the maintenance of the enclosures poor to say the least, and the original Head Keeper who, by common agreement, was very effective and conscientious in the early days, was fired.
The 'wildlife sanctuaries built with Mrs Schmutzer's money' around the country are a disaster; most are financially broke and at one I visited last year I was shown around the very, very impressive looking enclosures full of animals and birds dying of starvation….if anyone doubts me I can send photos. The same 'sanctuary' has two orangutans and another has three, all of which they have asked BOS many times to accept, but BOS will not.
So, here we have Indonesia's most iconic of species, one which should be a flagship Ambassador for Indonesia, slaughtered in the wild, incarcerated and starved when in captivity, and all the time I see people like Howletts/Aspinall Foundation trying to put a spin on The Inconvenient Truth.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Gorillas at the Primate Center
In response to recent letters to The Jakarta Post by Ulrike von Mengden (Dec. 30) and Shirley McGreal (Jan. 2), which questioned the actions of The Aspinall Foundation and Howletts Wild Animal Park in sending gorillas to the Schmutzer Primate Center (SPC), I would make the following statement.
Puck Schmutzer's vision was to create an environment for captive primates from around the world that would act as a positive model for zoos in Indonesia and indeed in Asia with its cage design, husbandry and record-keeping.
She achieved this with the creation of the Schmutzer Primate Center and, with the direction of Willie Smits, helped create a network of wildlife sanctuaries around the country.
Schmutzer believed that, by building the best gorilla enclosure in the world and housing a breeding colony at the Primate Center, these iconic animals would help draw attention to the plight of all primates under threat of extinction (which should be one of the primary roles of any zoo).
The incredible number of visitors to the Primate Center validates her vision. The late John Aspinall and Puck Schmutzer were good friends and The Aspinall Foundation has been working in collaboration with SPC since the 1980s.
Through a succession of breeding loans between two facilities, the Howletts and Port Lympne, wild animal parks have built up a successfully breeding captive population of Indonesian primates such as Javan gibbons, Javan langurs and leaf monkeys. These exchanges were carried out in full accordance with international guidelines.
Here in the UK, the breeding success of these Indonesian species has helped to highlight their plight in the wild. Funds generated from the publicity regarding these Indonesian primates are now being used to help conserve other endangered International Union for Conservation of Nature red-listed primates through in-situ conservation in Java (such as the Javan Gibbon).
These projects include a comprehensive field survey of all protected Javan primates being undertaken by the Indonesian Primatological Association in cooperation with the Forestry Ministry and local NGOs in West and Central Java.
Also, partial funding of the first international Indonesian Gibbon Workshop in 2008 and majority funding of the 2008 Javan Gibbon Workshop organized by the Forestry Minsitry and the Indonesian Primatological Association.
The results of the latter workshop are to be used in preparation of the National Strategy and Action Plan for the conservation of the Javan Gibbon. The Foundation has committed itself to further funding of the priorities agreed to by stakeholders at these workshops.
The Aspinall Foundation believes that by working directly with the Schmutzer Primate Center and Ragunan, staff conditions can be improved for the other Indonesian species at the zoo, and Howletts recently hosted two keepers and a vet from Ragunan Zoo and the Schmutzer center for 2 months.
We believe, as did Puck Schmutzer, that the best way to improve conditions outside the Schmutzer Primate Center is by positive example and collaboration.
The Aspinall FoundationLondon