Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Submitted to but not yet published by the Jakarta Globe, possibly because because of the criticism levelled at the Governor of Jakarta.


Much of the article Monkeying Around at Jakarta's Schmutzer Primate Center (13th December) focussed on the gorillas being kept at the Ragunan zoo. Not a word was said about orangutans, Indonesia's only great ape and one that is currently being literally slaughtered in its thousands every year not all that far from Jakarta.

In Ragunan Zoo, gorillas which are native of Africa are kept in more or less no expense spared enclosures. Quite why a zoo in Jakarta wants to keep gorillas is another matter. The facts are, African gorillas at this zoo are treated as if they were the jewel in the crown of Ragunan zoo, whilst some 55 orangutans from Industry are kept in abject misery at this very same zoo. At least 36 of these orangutans are kept off exhibit, out of the public eye, in conditions which can only be described as barbaric.

Some of these orangutans barely ever see daylight and most never touch a branch let alone climb a tree. Some are sick. Some have TB. All are deprived of even what passes for humane treatment in Indonesia much less basic zoo husbandry standards. It has been like this for over 15 years and all the zoo management know this, as does the Governor of Jakarta who 12 months ago promised the orangutans better living conditions - since when things have only got worse.

Money is clearly not an issue. Look around the zoo and you can see roads being rebuilt, fences erected, new enclosures for this and that species, whilst all these long-suffering orangutans are ignored. Just as in the forests of Kalimantan and Sumatra, orangutans in Indonesian zoos are treated as an expendable resource, not even worthy of being treated as an equal with gorillas.

The genocide of orangutans in what remains of the forests and the cruel treatment of orangutans in captivity has seemingly become the custom and practice of both the government and zoo management. The world looks on with dismay and despair.

Sean Whyte